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The Witch of Melton Hill. 

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—9. Margaret Clitherow. — 10. Geronimo of Algiers. — 11. Martyrdoms in China. 
—12. Father Thomas of Jesus. 







ROBERT W. WOODRUFF 
LIBRARY 




EABIOLA; 



OR, 



&fje Cfjwtfj of tfje Catacombs* 




LONDON. 
BURWS&,LaMB£RT. 



FABIOLA; 



OR, 



%\t Cjntrdj d l|e €%fatmh. 



H^EC, sub altaei sita sempitebno, 

LAPSIBUS NOSTEIS VEXIA5I PKECATUR, 
TUEBA, QUAM BEKVAT PROCEEUM CEEATEIX 
PURPUREOEUM. 

Pyudentius. 



LONDON: 
BURNS AND LAMBERT, 17 FORTMAN STREET, 

AND 63 PATERNOSTER ROW. 



MDCCCLV. 



'i be Author reserves to himself the rijrht of authorising Translations of this Work. 



N.B. The proprietorship of this Series is secured in all countries where 
the Copyright is protected. 




PREFACE. 



i|'~W"HEN the plan of the Popular Catholic Library 
was formed, the author of the following 
little work was consulted upon it. He not 
only approved of the design, but ventured 
to suggest, among others, a series of tales 
illustrative of the condition of the Church 
in different periods of her past existence. 
One, for instance, might be called " The Church of the Cata- 
combs ;" a second, " The Church of the Basilicas ;" each com- 
prising three hundred years : a third would be on " The Church 
of the Cloister ;" and then, perhaps, a fourth might be added, 
called "The Church of the Schools." 

In proposing this sketch, he added, — perhaps the reader 
will find indiscreetly, — that he felt half inclined to under- 
take the first, by way of illustrating the proposed plan. He 
was taken at his word, and urged strongly to begin the work. 
After some reflection, he consented ; but with an understand- 
ing, that it was not to be an occupation, but only the recreation 
of leisure hours. With this condition, the work was commenced 
early in this year; and it has been carried on entirely on that 
principle. 

It has, therefore, been written at all sorts of times and in 
all sorts of places; early and late, when no duty urged, in 
scraps and fragments of time, when the body was too fatigued 
or the mind too worn for heavier occupation ; in the road-side 
inn, in the halt of travel, in strange houses, in every variety of 
situation and circumstances — sometimes trying ones. It has 
thus been composed bit by bit, in portions varying from ten 
lines to half-a-dozen pages at most, and generally with few 
books or resources at hand. But once begun, it has proved 
what it was taken for, — a recreation, and often a solace and a 
sedative ; from the memories it has revived, the associations it 
has renewed, the scattered and broken remnants of old studies 



Vlll PREFACE. 

and early readings which it has combined, and by the fami- 
liarity which it has cherished with better times and better 
things than surround us in our age. 

Why need the reader be told all this ? For two reasons : 

First, this method of composition may possibly be reflected 
on the work ; and he may find it patchy and ill-assorted, or 
not well connected in its parts. If so, this account will ex- 
plain the cause. 

Secondly, he will thus be led not to expect a treatise or 
a learned work even upon ecclesiastical antiquities. Nothing 
would have been easier than to cast an air of erudition over 
this little book, and fill half of each page with notes and refer- 
ences. But this was never the writer's idea. His desire was 
rather to make his reader familiar with the usages, habits, con- 
dition, ideas, feeling, and spirit of the early ages of Christianity. 
This required a certain acquaintance with places and objects 
connected with the period, and some familiarity, more habitual 
than learned, with the records of the time. For instance, such 
writings as the Acts of primitive Martyrs should have been 
frequently read, so as to leave impressions on the author's 
mind, rather than have been examined scientifically and criti- 
cally for mere antiquarian purposes. And so, such places or 
monuments as have to be explained should seem to ' stand be- 
fore the eye of the describer, from frequently and almost casu- 
ally seeing them, rather than have to be drawn from books. 

Another source of instruction has been freely used. Any 
one acquainted with the Koman Breviary must have observed, 
that in the offices of certain saints a peculiar style prevails, 
which presents the holy persons commemorated in a distinct 
and characteristic form. This is not the result so much of any 
continuous narrative, as of expressions put into their mouths, 
or brief descriptions of events in their lives, repeated often 
again and again, in antiphons, responsoria to lessons, and even 
versicles; till they put before us an individuality, a portrait 
clear and definite of singular excellence. To this class belong 
the offices of SS. Agnes, Agatha, Csecilia, and Lucia ; and those 
of St. Clement and St. Martin. Each of these saints: stands out 
before our minds with distinct features ; almost as if we had 
seen and known them. 



PREFACE. IX 

If, for instance, we take the first that we have named, we 
clearly draw out the following circumstances. She is evidently- 
pursued by some heathen admirer, whose suit for her hand she 
repeatedly rejects. Sometimes she tells him that he is fore- 
stalled by another, to whom she is betrothed ; sometimes she 
describes this object of her choice under various images, repre- 
senting him even as the object of homage to sun and moon. 
On another occasion she describes the rich gifts, or the beauti- 
ful garlands with which he has adorned her, and the chaste ca- 
resses by which he has endeared himself to her. Then at last, 
as if more importunately pressed, she rejects the love of perish- 
able man, " the food of death," and triumphantly proclaims 
herself the spouse of Christ. Threats are used ; but she declares 
herself under the protection of an angel who will shield her. 

This history is as plainly written by the fragments of her 
office, as a word is by scattered letters brought, and joined 
together. But throughout, one discerns another peculiarity, 
and a truly beautiful one in her character. It is clearly repre- 
sented to us, that the saint had ever before her the unseen 
Object of her love, saw Him, heard Him, felt Him, and enter- 
tained, and had returned, a real affection, such as hearts on 
earth have for one another. She seems to walk in perpetual 
vision, almost in ecstatic fruition, of her Spouse's presence. 
He has actually put a ring upon her finger, has transferred the 
blood from His own cheek to hers, has crowned her with 
budding roses. Her eye is really upon Him, with unerring 
gaze, and returned looks of gracious love. 

What writer that introduced the person would venture to 
alter the character ? Who would presume to attempt one at 
variance with it ? Or who would hope to draw a portrait more 
life-like and more exquisite than the Church has done 1 For, 
putting aside all inquiry as to the genuineness of the acts by 
which these passages are suggested ; and still more waving 
the question whether the hard critical spirit of a former age too 
lightly rejected such ecclesiastical documents, as Gueranger 
thinks ; it is clear that the Church, in her office, intends to 
place before us a certain type of high virtue embodied in the 
character of that saint. The writer of the following pages 
considered himself therefore bound to adhere to this view. 



X PREFACE. 

Whether these objects have been attained, it is for the reader 
to jndge. At any rate, even looking at the amount of infor- 
mation to be expected from a work in this form, and one in- 
tended for general reading, a comparison between the subjects 
introduced, either form all 7 or casually, and those given in any 
elementary work, such as Fleury s Ma)\neri of ih.e ChrUtiam, 
which embraces several centuries more, will show that as much 
positive knowledge on the practices and belief of that early 
period is here imparted, as it is usual to communicate in a 
more didactic form. 

At the same time, the reader must remember that this 
book is not historical. It takes in but a period of a few months, 
extended in some concluding chapters. It consists rather of a 
series of pictures than of a narrative of events. Occurrences, 
therefore, of different epochs and different countries Lave been 
condensed into a small space. Chronology Las been sacrificed 
to this purpose. The date of Dioclesian's edict has been anti- 
cipated by two. months : the martyrdom of St. Agnes by a year; 
the peri oi of St . Sebastian, though uncertain, has been brought 
down later. All that relates to Christian topography Las been 
kept as accurate as possible. A martyrdom has been trans- 
ferred from Imola to Fondi. 

It was necessary to introduce some view of the morals and 
opinions of the pagan world, as a contrast to those of Chris- 
tians. But their worst aspect Las been carefully suppressed, 
as nothing could be admitted here which the most sensitive 
Catholic eye would shrink from contemplating. It is indeed 
earnestly desired that this little work, written solely for recrea- 
tion, be read also, as a relaxation from graver pursuits ; but 
that, at the same time, the reader may rise from its perusal 
with a feeling that his time has not been lost, nor his mind 
occupied with frivolous ideas. Rather let it be hoped, that 
some admiration and love maybe inspired by it of those primi- 
tive times, which an over-excited interest in later and more 
brilliant epochs of the Church is too apt to diminish or obscure. 

Sept. 5, \b.'-i 



CONTENTS. 



PART I. 

|teate. 

CHAP. PAGE 

I. The Christian House 1 

II. The Martyr's Boy 5 

III. The Dedication 10 

IV. The Heathen Household 15 

V. The Visit 23 

VI. The Banquet 28 

VII. Poor and Rich 34 

VIII. The First Day's Conclusion 43 

IX. Meetings 47 

X. Other Meetings 57 

XI. A Talk with the Reader 68 

XII. The Wolf and the Fox 74 

XIII. Charity . . 78 

XIV. Extremes meet 81 

XV. Charity returns 89 

XVI. The Month of October 92 

XVII. The Christian Community 104 

XVIII. Temptation 114 

XIX. The Fall 119 



PART II. 

Cottflixl. 

I. Diogenes . .... 

II. The Cemeteries ....... 

III. What Diogenes could not tell about the Catacombs 

IV. What Diogenes did tell about the Catacombs . 
V. Above Ground . . . . 



130 
140 
149 
156 
163 



XU CONTEXTS. 

CHAP. PAGE 

VI. Deliberations . .167 

VIL Dark Death .174 

VOL Darker still ITS 

IX. The False Brother 1S2 

X. The Ordination in December 184 

XL The "Virgins 191 

XII. The Nomentan "Villa 197 

XUL The Edict 202 

XIV. The Discovery 209 

XV. Explanations 212 

XVI. The "Wolf in the Fold 217 

XVTL The First Flower 227 

XVLTL P^tribution 235 

XTX. Twofold Revenge 244 

XX. The Public "Works 252 

XXI. The Prison . 257 

XXLL The Viaticum 262 

XXm. The Fight 272 

XXTV. The Christian Soldier 2S0 

XXV. The Eescue 285 

XXVL The Revival 294 

XXVII. The Second Crown 299 

XXV ILL. The critical Day ; its First Part . . . .304 

XXTX. The same Day : its Second Part . . . .312 

XXX. The same Day: its Third Part . . .323 

XXXT. The Priest and Physician . . . . .337 

XXXTL The Sacrifice accepted ...... 342 

XXX1TI. Miriam's History 350 

XXXIV. Bright Death 357 



PART III. 

Sirtarjj. 

I. The Stranger from the East ..... 367 

EL The Stranger in Rome ...... 372 

TTT, And Last 376 



FABIOLA; 



THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 
PART FIRST. 




Chap. I. — The Christian House. 

T is on an afternoon in September of the 
year 302, that we invite our reader to ac- 
company us through the streets of Rome. 
The sun has declined, and is about two 
hours from his setting ; the day is cloud- 
less, and its heat has cooled, so that mul- 
titudes are issuing from their houses, and 
making their way towards Caesar's g-ardens 
on one side, or Sallust's on the other, to 
enjoy their evening walk, and learn the 
news of the day. 

But the part of the city to which we 
wish to conduct our ' friendly reader is 
that known by the name of the Campus 
Martius. It comprised the flat alluvial 
plain between the seven hills of older 
Rome and the Tiber. Before the close 



of the republican period, this field, once left hare for the 
athletic and warlike exercises of the people, had begun 
to be encroached upon by public buildings. Pompey had 
erected in it his theatre ; soon after, Ag-rippa raised the 
Pantheon and its adjoining baths. But gradually it be- 
came occupied by private dwelling's ; while the hills, in 
the early empire the aristocratic portion of the city, were 
seized upon for greater edifices. Thus the Palatine, after 
Nero's fire, became almost too small for the imperial resi- 
dence and its adjoining' Circus Maximus. The Esquiline 
was usurped by Titus's baths, built on the ruins of the 
Golden House, the Aventine by Caracalla's; and at the 
period of which we write, the Emperor Dioclesian was 
covering the space sufficient for many lordly dwellings, 
by the erection of his Thermae* on the Quirinal, not far 
from Sallust's garden just alluded to. 

The particular spot in the Campus Martius to which 
we will direct our steps, is one whose situation is' so de- 
finite, that we can accurately describe it to any one ac- 
quainted with the topography of ancient or modern Rome. 
In republican times there was a large square space in the 
Campus Martius, surrounded by boarding, and divided 
into pens, in which the Comitia, or meetings of the tribes 
of the people, were held, for giving their votes. This was 
called the Septa, or Oc'de, from its resemblance to a sheep- 
fold. Augustus carried out a plan, described by Cicero 
in a letter to Atticus,f of transforming' this homely con- 
trivance into a magnificent and solid structure. The Septa 
Julia, as it was thenceforth called, was a splendid portico 
of 1000 by 500 feet, supported by columns, and adorned 
with paintings. Its ruins are clearly traceable ; and it 
occupied the space now covered by the Doria and Verospi 
palaces (running - thus along the present Corso), the Roman 
College, the Church of St. Ignatius, and the Oratory of 
the Caravita. 

The house to which we invite our reader is exactly op- 
posite, and on the east side of this edifice, including in its 
area the present church of St, Marcellus, whence it ex- 

* Hot-baths. t Lib. iv. ep. 16. 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 3 

tended back towards the foot of the Quirinal hill. It is 
thus found to cover, as noble Eoman houses did, a con- 
siderable extent of ground. From the outside it presents 
but a blank and dead appearance. The walls are plain, 
without architectural ornament, not high, and scarcely 
broken by windows. In the middle of one side of this 
quadrangle is a door, in antis, that is, merely relieved by a 
tympanum or triangular cornice, resting on two half co- 
lumns. Using - our privilege as " artists of fiction," of 
invisible ubiquity, we will enter in with our friend, or 
" shadow," as he would have been anciently called. Pass- 
ing through the porch, on the pavement of which we read 
with pleasure, in mosaic, the greeting Salve, or Wel- 
come, we find ourselves in the atrium, or first court of 
the house, surrounded by a portico or colonnade.* 

In the centre of the marble pavement a softly warbling 
jet of pure water, brought by the Claudian aqueduct from 
the Tusculan hills, springs into the air, now higher, now 
lower, and falls into an elevated basin of red marble, over 
the sides of which it flows in downy waves ; and before 
reaching its lower and wider recipient, scatters a gentle 
shower on the rare and brilliant flowers placed in elegant 
vases around. Under the portico we see furniture disposed, 
of a rich and sometimes rare character; couches inlaid 
with ivory, and even silver ; tables of oriental woods, 
bearing candelabra, lamps, and other household implements 
of bronze or silver ; delicately chased busts, vases, tripods, 
and objects of mere art. On the walls are paintings evi- 
dently of a former period, still, however, retaining all their 
brightness of colour and freshness of execution. These are 
separated by niches with statues, representing indeed, like 
the pictures, mythological or historical subjects; but we 
cannot help observing - , that nothing - meets the eye which 
could offend the most delicate mind. Here and there an 
empty niche, or a covered painting, proves that this is not 
the result of accident. 

As outside the columns, the coving roof leaves a large 

* The Fompeian Court in the Crystal Palace will have fami- 
liarised many readers with the forms of an ancient house. 



square opening in its centre, called the impliwium, there 
is drawn across it a curtain, or veil of dark canvas, which 
keeps out the sun and rain. An artificial twilight there- 
fore alone enahles us to see all that we have described; 
hut it gives greater effect to what is beyond. Through 
an arch, opposite to the one whereby we have entered, we 
catch a glimpse of an inner and still richer court, paved 
with variegated marbles, and adorned with bright gild- 
ing. The veil of the opening above, which, however, here 
is closed with thick glass or talc (lapis specularis), has 
been partly withdrawn, and admits a brig-ht but softened 
ray from the evening' sun on to the place, where we see, 
for the first time, that we are in no enchanted hall, but in 
an inhabited house. 

Beside a table, just outside the columns of Phrygian 
marble, sits a matron not beyond the middle of life, whose 
features, noble yet mild, show traces of having passed 
through sorrow at some earlier period. But a powerful 
influence has subdued the recollection of it, or blended it 
with a sweeter thought; and the two always come to- 
gether, and have long dwelt united in her heart. The 
simplicity of her appearance strang'ely contrasts with the 
richness of all around her ; her hair, streaked with silver, 
is left uncovered, and unconcealed by any artifice; her 
robes are of the plainest colour and texture, without em- 
broidery, except the purple ribbon sewed on, and called 
the segmenhim, which denotes the state of widowhood; 
and not a jewel or precious ornament, of which the Roman 
ladies were so lavish, is to be seen upon her person. The 
only thing approaching to this is a slight gold cord or 
chain round her neck, from which apparently hangs some 
object, carefully concealed within the upper hem of her 
dress. 

At the time that we discover her she is bushy engaged 
over a piece of work, which evidently has no personal use. 
Upon a long rich strip of g'old cloth she is embroidering 
with still richer gold, thread ; and occasionally she has re- 
course to one or another of several elegant caskets upon 
the table, from which she takes out a pearl, or a gem 
set in gold, and introduces it into the design, It looks as 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 5 

if the precious ornaments of earlier days were being de- 
voted to some higher purpose. 

But as time goes on, some little uneasiness may be ob- 
served to come over her calm thoughts, hitherto absorbed, 
to all appearance, in her work. She now occasionally 
raises her eyes from it towards the entrance ; sometimes 
she listens for footsteps, and seems disappointed. She 
looks up towards the sun ; then perhaps turns her glance 
towards a clepsydra or water-clock, on a. bracket near her ; 
but just as a feeling of more serious anxiety begins to 
make an impression on her countenance, a cheerful rap 
strikes the house-door, and she bends forward with a ra- 
diant look to meet the welcome visitor. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE MARTYR'S BOY. 

It is a youth full of grace, and sprightliness, and can- 
dour, that comes forward with light and buoyant steps 
across the atrium, towards the inner-hall; and we shall 
hardly find time to sketch him before he reaches it. He 
is about fourteen years old, but tall for that age, with ele- 
gance of form and manliness of bearing. His bare neck 
and limbs are well developed by healthy exercise ; his fea- 
tures display an open and warm heart, while his lofty 
forehead, round which his brown hair naturally curls, beams 
with a bright intelligence. He wears the usual youth's gar- 
ment, the short prcetexta, reaching" below the knee, and a 
golden bulla, or hollow spheroid of gold suspended round 
his neck. A bundle of papers and vellum rolls fastened 
together, and carried by an old servant behind him, shows 
us that he is just returning home from school.* 

While we have been thus noting him, he has received 
his mother's embrace, and has sat himself low by her feet. 

* This custom suggests to St. Augustine the beautiful idea, that 
the Jews were the pcedagogi of Christianity, — carrying for it the 
books which they themselves could not understand. 



6 FABIOLA ; OR, 

She gazes upon him for some time in silence, as if to dis- 
cover in his countenance the cause of his unusual delay, 
for he is an hour late in his return. But he meets her 
glance with so frank a look, and with such a smile of inno- 
cence, that every cloud of doubt is in a moment dispelled, 
and she addresses him as follows : 

" What has detained you to-day, my dearest boy ? No 
accident, I trust, has happened to }'ou on the way ?" 

" Oh, none, I assure you, sweetest* mother ; on the con- 
trary, all has been delightful, — so much so, that I can 
scarcely venture to tell you." 

A look of smiling expostulation drew from the open- 
hearted boy a delicious laugh, as he continued, 

"Well, I suppose I must. You know I am never 
happy, and cannot sleep, if I have failed to tell you all the 
bad and the good of the day about myself." (The mother 
smiled again, wondering what the bad was.) " I was 
reading the other day that the Scythians each evening 
cast into an urn a white or a black stone, according- as the 
day had been happy or unhappy ; if I had to do so, it 
would serve to mark, in white or black, the days on which 
I have, or have not, an opportunity of relating - to you all 
that I have done. But to-day, for the first time, I have 
a doubt, a fear of conscience, whether I ought to tell you 
all." 

Did the mother's heart nutter more than usual, as 
from a first anxiety, or was there a softer solicitude dim- 
ming her eye, that the youth should seize her hand and 
put it tenderly to his lips, while he thus replied ? 

"Fear nothing, mother most beloved, your son has 
done nothing that may give you pain. Only say, do you 
wish to hear all that has befallen me to-day, or only the 
cause of my late return home?" 

" Tell me all, dear Pancratius," she answered ; " no- 
thing that concerns you can be indifferent to me." 

" Well, then," he began, " this last day of my fre- 
quenting school appears to me to have been singularly 
blessed, and yet full of strange occurrences. First, I was 

* The peculiar epithet of the Catacombs. 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 7 

crowned as the successful competitor in a declamation, 
which our good master Cassianus set us for our work 
during- the morning 1 hours ; and this led, as you will hear, 
to some singular discoveries. The subject was, ' That the 
real philosopher should he ever ready to die for truth.' 
I never heard any thing- so cold or insipid (I hope it is 
not wrong- to say so,) as the compositions read by my 
companions. It was not their fault, poor fellows ! what 
truth can they possess, and what inducements can they 
have, to die for any of their vain opinions ? But to a 
Christian, what charming- sug-g-estions such a theme na- 
turally makes ! And so I felt it. My heart glowed, and 
all my thoug-hts seemed to burn, as I wrote my essay, full 
of the lessons you have taught me, and of the domestic 
examples that are before me. The son of a martyr could 
not feel otherwise. But when my turn came to read my 
declamation, I found that my feelings had nearly fatally 
betrayed me. In the warmth of my recitation, the word 
' Christian' escaped my lips instead of 'philosopher,' and 
'faith' instead of 'truth.' At the first mistake, I saw 
Cassianus start; at the second, I saw a tear glisten in 
his eye, as bending- affectionately towards me, he said, in 
a whisper, ' Beware, my child ; there are sharp ears lis- 
tening.'" 

"What, then," interrupted the mother, "is Cassianus 
a Christian ? I chose his school for you because it was in 
the highest repute for learning and for morality ; and now 
indeed I thank God that I did so. But in these days of 
danger and apprehension we are obliged to live as strangers 
in our own land, scarcely knowing the faces of our brethren. 
Certainly, had Cassianus proclaimed his faith, his school 
would soon have been deserted. But go on, my dear boy. 
Were his apprehensions well grounded ?" 

" I fear so ; for while the great body of my school- 
fellows, not noticing these slips, vehemently applauded my 
hearty declamation, I saw the dark eyes of Corvinus bent 
scowlingly upon me, as he bit his lip in manifest anger." 

" And who is he, my child, that was so displeased, and 
wherefore ?" 

" He is the oldest and strongest, but, unfortunately, 



8 

the dullest boy in the school. But this, you know, is not 
his fault. Only, I know not why, he seems ever to have 
had an ill-will and grudge against me, the cause of which 
I cannot understand." 

" Did he say aught to you, or do 1" 

" Yes, and was the cause of my delay. For when 
we went forth from school into the field by the river, 
he addressed me insultingly in the presence of our com- 
panions, and said, ' Come, Pancratius, this, I under- 
stand, is the last time we meet liere (he laid a particular 
emphasis on the word) ; but I have a long score to demand 
payment of from you. You have loved to show your 
superiority in school over me and others older and better 
than yourself j I saw your supercilious looks at me as you 
spouted your high-flown declamation to-day; ay, and I 
eaug'ht expressions in it which you may live to rue, and 
that very soon ; for my father, you well know, is Prefect 
of the city" (the mother slightly started); "and something 
is preparing which may nearly concern you. Before you 
leave us, I must have my revenge. If you are worthy of 
your name, and it be not an empty word,* let us fairly 
contend in more manly strife than that of the style and 
tables. f Wrestle with me, or try the cestus | against me. 
I burn to humble you as you deserve, before these wit- 
nesses of your insolent triumphs.' " 

The anxious mother bent eag*erly forward as she 
listened, and scarcely breathed. "And what," she ex- 
claimed, " did you answer, my dear son ?" 

" I told him g'ently that he was quite mistaken ; for 
never had I consciously done any thing that could give pain 
to him or any of my schoolfellows ; nor did I ever dream 
of claiming superiority over them. ' And as to what you 
propose,' I added, ' you know, Corvinus, that I have always 
refused to indulge in personal combats, which, beginning 

* The pancratium was the exercise which combined all other 
personal contests, — wrestling, boxing, &c. 

f The implements of writing in schools, the tablets being covered 
with wax, on which the letters were traced by the sharp point, and 
effaced by the flat top, of the style. 

% The hand-bandages worn in pugilistic combats. 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 9 

in a cool trial of skill, end in an angry strife, hatred, and 
wish for reveng'e. How much less could I think of enter- 
ing on them now, when you avow that you are anxious 
to begin them with those evil feelings which are usually 
their bad end V Our schoolmates had now formed a circle 
round us ; and I clearly saw that they were all against me, 
for they had hoped to enjoy some of the delights of their 
cruel games ; I therefore cheerfully added, ' And now, my 
comrades, good-bye, and may all happiness attend you. 
I part from you, as I have lived with you, in peace.' ' Not 
so,' replied Corvinus, now purple in the face with fury; 
'but'"— 

The boy's countenance became crimsoned, his voice 
quivered, his body trembled, and, half choked, he sobbed 
out, " I cannot go on ; I dare not tell the rest !" 

" I entreat you, for God's sake, and for the love you 
bear your father's memory," said the mother, placing her 
hand upon her son's head, " conceal nothing from me. I 
shall never again have rest if you tell me not all. What 
further said or did Corvinus ?" 

The boy recovered himself by a moment's pause and a 
silent prayer, and then proceeded : 

" ( Not so !' exclaimed Corvinus, ' not so do you de- 
part, cowardly worshipper of an ass's head !* You have 
concealed your abode from us, but I will find you out ; till 
then bear this token of my determined purpose to be re- 
venged !' So saying he dealt me a furious blow upon the 
face, which made me reel and stagger, while a shout of 
savage delight broke forth from the boys around us." 

He burst into tears, which relieved him, and then 
went on. 

" Oh, how I felt my blood boil at that moment ! how 
my heart seemed bursting within me ; and a voice appeared 
to whisper in my ear scornfully the name of ' coward !' 
It surely was an evil spirit. I felt that I was strong 
enough — my rising anger made me so — to seize my unjust 
assailant by the throat, and cast him gasping on the ground. 
I heard already the shout of applause that would have 

* One of the many calumnies popular among the heathens. 



10 FABIOLA; OR, 

hailed my victory and turned the tahles against him. It 
was the hardest struggle of my life ; never were flesh and 
blood so strong within me. God ! may they never be 
again so tremendously powerful !" 

" And what did you do, then, my darling boy ?" gasped 
forth the trembling matron. 

He replied, " My good angel conquered the demon at 
my side. I thought of my blessed Lord in the house of 
Caiphas, surrounded by scoffing enemies, and struck igno- 
miniousiy on the cheek, yet meek and forgiving. Could 
I wish to be otherwise ?* I stretched forth my hand to 
Corvinus, and said, ' May God forgive you, as I freely and 
fully do ; and may He bless you abundantly.' Cassianus 
came up at that moment, having seen all from a distance, 
and the youthful crowd quickly dispersed. I entreated 
him, by our common faith, now acknowledged between us, 
not to pursue Corvinus for what he had done ; and I ob- 
tained his promise. And now, sweet mother," murmured 
the boy, in soft, gentle accents, into his parent's bosom, 
" do you not think I may call this a happy day ?" 



CHAPTEK III. 

THE DEDICATION. 

While the foregoing conversation was held, the day had 
fast declined. An aged female servant now entered un- 
noticed, and lighted the lamps placed on marble and bronze 
candelabra, and quietly retired. A bright light beamed 
upon the unconscious group of mother and son, as they 
remained silent, after the holy matron Lucina had an- 
swered Pancratius's last question only by kissing his glow- 
ing brow. It was not merely a maternal emotion that was 
agitating her bosom ; it was not even the happy feeling of 
a mother who, having trained her child to certain high 
and difficult principles, sees them put to their hardest test, 
and nobly stand it. Neither was it the joy of having for 

* This scene is taken from a real occurrence. 



CH. Iir.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 11 

her son one, in her estimation, so heroically virtuous at 
such an age ; for surely, with much greater justice than the 
mother of the Gracchi showed her boys to the astonished 
matrons of republican Rome as her only jewels, could that 
Christian mother have boasted to the Church of the son 
she had brought up. 

But to her this was an hour of still deeper, or, shall we 
say, sublimer feeling. It was a period looked forward to 
anxiously for years ; a moment prayed for with all the 
fervour of a mother's supplication. Many a pious parent 
has devoted her infant son from the cradle to the holiest 
and noblest state that earth possesses; has prayed and 
longed to see him grow up to be, first a spotless Levite, and 
then a holy priest at the altar ; and has watched eagerly 
each growing inclination, and tried gently to bend the 
tender thought towards the sanctuary of the Lord of 
Hosts. And if this was an only child, as Samuel was to 
Anna, that dedication of all that is dear to her keenest 
affection, may justly be considered as an act of maternal 
heroism. What then must be said of ancient matrons, — 
Felicitas, Symphorosa, or the unnamed mother of the 
Maccabees, — who gave up or offered their children, not 
one, but many, yea all, to be victims whole-burnt, rather 
than priests, to God 1 

It was some such thought as this which filled the 
heart of Lucina in that hour ; while, with closed eyes, she 
raised it high to heaven, and prayed for strength. She felt 
as though called to make a generous sacrifice of what was 
dearest to her on earth; and though she had long fore- 
seen it and desired it, it was not without a maternal throe 
that its merit could be gained. And what was passing in 
that boy's mind, as he too remained silent and abstracted ? 
Not any thought of a high destiny awaiting him. No 
vision of a venerable Basilica, eagerly visited 1600 years 
later by the sacred antiquary and the devout pilgrim, and 
giving his name, which it shall bear, to the neighbouring 
gate of Rome.* No anticipation of a church in his honour 
to rise in faithful ages on the banks of the distant Thames, 

* Church and gate of San Pancrazio. 



12 

which, even after desecration, should be loved and eagerly 
sought as their last resting-place, by hearts faithful still 
to his dear Rome.* Wo forethought of a silver canopy or 
ciborium, weighing' 287 lbs., to be placed over the por- 
phyry urn that should contain his ashes, by Pope Hono- 
rius I.f No idea that his name would be enrolled in every 
martyrology, his picture, crowned with rays, hung over 
many altars, as the boy-martyr of the early Church. He 
was only the simple-hearted Christian } T outh, who looked 
upon it as a matter of course that he must always obey 
God's law and His Gospel ; and only felt happy that he 
had that day performed his duty, when it came under cir- 
cumstances of more than usual trial. There was no pride, 
no self-admiration in the reflection ; otherwise there would 
have been no heroism in his act. 

When he raised again his eyes, after his calm reverie 
of peaceful thoughts, in the new light which brightly filled 
the hall, they met his mother's countenance g'azing anew 
upon him, radiant with a majesty and tenderness such as 
he never recollected to have seen before. It was a look 
almost of inspiration : her face was as that of a vision ; her 
eyes what he would have imagined an angel's to be. 
Silently, and almost unknowingly he had changed his 
position, and was kneeling- before her; and well he might; 
for was she not to him as a guardian spirit, who had 
shielded him ever from evil ; or might he not well see in 
her the living saint whose virtues had been his model 
from childhood ? Lucina broke the silence, in a tone full 
of grave emotion. 

" The time is at length come, my dear child," she said, 
"which has long been the subject of my earnest prayer, 
which I have yearned for in the exuberance of maternal 
love. Eagerly have I watched in thee the opening germ 
of each Christian virtue, and thanked God as it appeared. 
I have noted thy docility, thy gentleness, thy diligence, 
thy piety, and thy love of God and man. I have seen 
with joy thy lively faith, and thy indifference to worldly 

* Old St. Pancras's, the favourite burial-place of Catholics, till 
they had cemeteries of their own. 

f Anastastasius, Biblioth. in vita Honorii. 



CII. III.] THE CHUBCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 13 

thing's, and thy tenderness to the poor. But I have been 
waiting with anxiety for the hour which should decisively 
show me, whether thou wouldst be content with the poor 
legacy of thy mother's weakly virtue, or art the true inhe- 
ritor of thy martyred father's nobler gifts. That hour, 
thank God, has come to-day !" 

" What have I done, then, that should thus have 
changed or raised thy opinion of me ?" asked Pancratius. 

" Listen to me, my son. This day, which was to be 
the last of thy school education, methinks that our mer- 
ciful Lord has been pleased to give thee a lesson worth it 
all; and to prove that thou hast put off the things of a 
child, and must be treated henceforth as a man ; for thou 
canst think and speak, yea, and act as one." 

" How dost thou mean, dear mother 1" 

" What thou hast told me of thy declamation this 
morning," she replied, " proves to me how full thy heart 
must have been of noble and g-enerous thoughts ; thou art 
too sincere and honest to have written, and fervently ex- 
pressed, that it was a glorious duty to die for the faith, 
if thou hadst not believed it, and felt it." 

" And truly I do believe and feel it," interrupted the 
boy. " What greater happiness can a Christian desire on 
earth?" 

" Yes, my child, thou sayest most truly," continued 
Lucina. " But I should not have been satisfied with 
words. What followed afterwards has proved to me that 
thou canst bear intrepidly and patiently, not merely pain, 
but what I know it must have been harder for thy young 
patrician blood to stand, the stinging- ignominy of a dis- 
graceful blow, and the scornful words and glances of an 
unpitying multitude. Nay more ; thou hast proved thy- 
self strong enough to forgive and to pray for thine enemy. 
This day thou hast trodden the higher paths of the moun- 
tain, with the cross upon thy shoulders ; one step more, and 
thou wilt plant it on its summit. Thou hast proved thy- 
self the genuine son of the martyr Quintinus. Dost thou 
wish to be like him?" 

" Mother, mother ! dearest, sweetest mother !" broke 
out the panting youth ; " could I be his genuine son, and 



14 fabiola; or, 

not wish to resemble him I Though I never enjoved the 
nappiness of knowing him, has not his image been ever 
before niy mind'.' 1 Has he not been the verv pride of 
my thoughts'/ When each year the solemn commemo- 
ration has been made of him, as of one of the white-robed 
army that surrounds the Lamb, in whose blood he washed 
his garments, how have my heart and my flesh exulted in 
his glory ; and how have I prayed to him, in the warmth 
of filial piety, that he would obtain for me, not fame, not 
distinction, not wealth, not earthly joy, but what he valued 
more than all these : nay, that the only thing which he has 
left on earth may be applied, as I know he now considers 
it would most usefully and most nobly be." 

" What is that, my son'f ' 

"' It is his blood," replied the youth, "which yet re- 
mains flowing in my veins, and in these only. I know he 
must wish that it too, like what he held in his own, may 
be poured out in love of his Redeemer, and in testimony of 
his faith." 

" Enough, enough, my child !"' exclaimed the mother, 
thrilling with a holy emotion ; " take from thy neck the 
badge of childhood, I have a better token to give thee." 

He obeyed, and put away the golden bulla. 

" Thou hast inherited from thy father," spoke the 
mother, with still deeper solemnity of tone, " a noble 
name, a high station, ample riches, every worldly advan- 
tage. But there is one treasure which I have reserved for 
thee from his inheritance, till thou shoiddst prove thyself 
worthy of it. I have concealed it from thee till now; 
though I valued it more than gold and jewels. It is now 
time that I make it over to thee." 

With trembling hands she drew from her neck the 
golden chain which hung round it ; and for the first time 
her son saw that it supported a small bag or pmse richly 
embroidered, and set with gems. She opened it, and drew 
from it a sponge, dry indeed, but deeply stained. 

" This, too, is thy father's blood, Pancratius," she said, 
with faltering voice and streaming eyes. "I gathered it 
myself from his death-wound, as, disguised, I stood by his 
side, and saw him die from the wounds he had received for 
Christ." 



CH. IV.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 15 

She gazed upon it fondly, and kissed it fervently ; and 
her gushing tears fell on it, and moistened it once more. 
And thus liquefied again, its colour glowed bright and 
warm, as if it had only just left the martyr's heart. 

The holy matron put it to her son's quivering lips, and 
they were empurpled with its sanctifying touch. He ve- 
nerated the sacred relic with the deepest emotions of a 
Christian and a son • and felt as if his father's spirit had 
descended into him, and stirred to its depths the full vessel 
of his heart, that its waters might be ready freely to flow. 
The whole family thus seemed to him once more united. 
Luck a replaced her treasure in its shrine, and hung it 
round the neck of her son, saying : " When next it is 
moistened, may it be from a nobler stream than that which 
gushes from a weak woman's eyes !" But heaven thought 
not so; and the future combatant was anointed, and the 
future martyr was consecrated, by the blood of his father 
mingled with his mother's tears. 



CHAPTEE IV. 

THE HEATHEN HOUSEHOLD. 



While the scenes described in the three last chapters 
were taking place, a very different one presented itself in 
another house, situated in the valley between the Quirinal 
and Esquiline hills. It was that of Fabius, a man of the 
equestrian order, whose family, by farming the revenues 
of Asiatic provinces, had amassed immense wealth. His 
house was larger and more splendid than the one we have 
already visited. It contained a third large peristyle, or 
court, surrounded by immense apartments; and besides 
possessing many treasures of European art, it abounded 
with the rarest productions of the East;. Carpets from 
Persia were laid on the ground, silks from China, many- 
coloured stuffs from Babylon, and gold embroidery from 
India and Phrygia covered the furniture; while curious 
works in ivory and in metals, scattered about, were attri- 



16 fabiola; or, 

buted to the inhabitants of islands beyond the Indian ocean, 
of monstrous form and fabulous descent. 

Fabius himself, the owner of all this treasure and of 
large estates, was a true specimen of an easy-going Ro- 
man, who was determined thoroughly lo enjoy this life. 
In fact, he never dreamt of any other. Believing in 
nothing, yet worshipping, as a matter of course, on all 
proper occasions, whatever deity happened to have its turn, 
he passed for a man as good as his neighbours ; and no one 
had a right to exact more. The greater part of his day 
was passed at one or other of the gTeat baths, which, be- 
sides the purposes implied in their name, comprised in their 
many adjuncts the equivalents of clubs, reading-rooms, 
gambling-houses, tennis-courts, and gymnasiums. There 
he took his bath, gossiped, read, and whiled away his 
hours; or sauntered for a time into the Forum to hear 
some orator speaking', or some advocate pleading, or into 
one of the many public gardens, whither the fashionable 
world of Rome repaired. He returned home to an elegant 
supper, not later than our dinner; where he had daily 
guests, either previously invited, or picked up during the 
day, among the many parasites on the look-out for good fare. 

At home he was a kind and indulgent master. His 
house was well kept for him by an abundance of slaves ; 
and, as trouble was what most he dreaded, so long as every 
thing was comfortable, handsome, and well-served about 
him, he let things go on quietly, under the direction of his 
freedmen. 

It is not, however, so much to him that we wish to in- 
troduce our reader, as to another inmate of his house, the 
sharer of its splendid luxury, and the sole heiress of his 
wealth. This is his daughter, who, according to Roman 
usag'e, bears the father's name, softened, however, into the 
diminutive Fabiola.* As we have done before, we will con- 
duct the reader at once into her apartment. A marble 
staircase leads to it from the second court, over the sides 
of which extends a suite of rooms, opening upon a terrace, 
refreshed and adorned by a graceful fountain, and covered 
with a profusion of the rarest exotic plants. In these cham- 
* Pronounced with the accent on the i. 



CH. IV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 17 

bers is concentrated whatever is most exquisite and curious, 
in native and foreign art. A refined taste directing - ample 
means, and peculiar opportunities, has evidently presided 
over the collection and arrangement of all around. At this 
moment, the hour of the evening - repast is approaching; and 
we discover the mistress of this dainty abode engaged in 
preparing herself, to appear with becoming - splendour. 

She is reclining on a couch of Athenian workmanship, 
inlaid with silver, in a room of Cyzicene form; that is, 
having glass windows to the ground, and so opening on 
to the flowery terrace. Against the wall opposite to her 
hangs a mirror of polished silver, sufficient to reflect a 
whole standing - figure ; on a porphyry-table beside it is a 
collection of the innumerable rare cosmetics and perfumes, of 
which the Roman ladies had become so fond, and on which 
they lavished immense sums.* On another, of Indian san- 
dal-wood, was a rich display of jewels and trinkets in their 
precious caskets, from which to select for the day's use. 

It is by no means our intention, nor our gift, to describe 
persons or features; we wish more to deal with minds. 
We will, therefore, content ourselves with saying, that 
Fabiola, now at the age of twenty, was not considered 
inferior in appearance to other ladies of her rank, age, and 
fortune, and had many aspirants for her hand. But she 
was a contrast to her father in temper and in character. 
Proud, haughty, imperious, and irritable, she ruled like 
an empress all that surrounded her, with one or two ex- 
ceptions, and exacted humble homage from all that ap- 
proached her. An only child, whose mother had died in 
giving her birth, she had been nursed and brought up in 
indulgence by her careless, good-natured father ; she had 
been provided with the best masters, had been adorned 
with every accomplishment, and allowed to gratify every 
extravagant wish. She had never known what it was to 
deny herself a desire. 

Having - been left so much to herself, she had read 
much, and especially in profounder books. She had thus 
become a complete philosopher of the refined, that is, the 

* The milk of 500 asses per day was required to furnish Pop- 
psea, Nero's wife, with one cosmetic. 

O 



18 fabiola; or, 

infidel and intellectual, epicureanism, which had been long 
fashionable in Home. Of Christianity she knew nothing-, 
except that she understood it to be something- very low, 
material, and vulgar. She despised it, in fact, too much 
to think of inquiring into it. And as to paganism, with 
its gods, its vices, its fables, and its idolatry, she merely 
scorned it, though outwardly she followed it. In fact, she 
believed in nothing beyond the present life, and thought 
of nothing except its refined enjoyment. But her very 
pride threw a shield over her virtue; she loathed the 
wickedness of heathen society, as she despised the frivolous 
youths who paid her jealously exacted attention, for she 
found amusement in their follies. She was considered cold 
and selfish, but she was morally irreproachable. 

If at the beginning we seem to indulge in long de- 
scriptions, we trust that our reader will believe that they 
are requisite, to put him in possession of the state of ma- 
terial and social Rome at the period of our narrative ; and 
will make this the more intelligible. And should he be 
tempted to think that we describe things as over splendid 
and refined for an age of decline in arts and good taste, we 
beg- to remind him, that the year we are supposed to visit 
Rome is not as remote from the better periods of Roman 
art, for example, that of the Antonines, as our age is from 
that of Cellini, Raffaele, or Donatello. Yet in how many 
Italian palaces are still preserved works by these great 
artists, fully prized, though no longer imitated? So, no 
doubt, it was, with the houses belonging to the old and 
wealthy families of Rome. 

We find, then, Fabiola reclining on her couch, holding 
in her left hand a silver mirror with a handle, and in the 
other a strange instrument for so fair a hand. It is a sharp- 
pointed stiletto, with a delicately carved ivory handle, and 
a gold ring, to hold it by. This was the favourite weapon 
with which Roman ladies punished their slaves, or vented 
their passion on them, upon suffering the least annoyance, 
or when irritated by pettish anger. Three female slaves 
are now engaged about their mistress. They belong to 
different races, and have been purchased at high prices, not 
merely on account of their appearance, but for some rare 



OH. IV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 19 

accomplishment they are supposed to possess. One is a 
black- not of the degraded neg'ro stock, but from one oi 
those races, such as the Abyssinians and Numidians, in 
whom the features are as regular as in the Asiatic people. 
She is supposed to have great skill in herbs, and their cos- 
metic and healing properties, perhaps also in more danger- 
ous uses — in compounding philtres, charms, and possibly 
poisons. She is merely known by her national designation 
as Afra. A Greek comes next, selected for her taste in 
dress, and for the elegance and purity of her accent ; she is 
therefore called Graia. The name which the third bears, 
Syra, tells us that she comes from Asia ; and she is distin- 
guished for her exquisite embroidering-, and for her assiduous 
diligence. She is quiet, silent, but completely engaged with 
the duties which now devolve upon her. The other two are 
garrulous, light, and make great pretence about any little 
thing they do. Every moment they address the most 
extravagant flattery to their young mistress, or try to pro- 
mote the suit of one or other of the profligate candidates 
for her hand, who has best or last bribed them. 

" How delighted I should be, most noble mistress," 
said the black slave, " if I could only be in the triclinium* 
this evening as you enter in, to observe the brilliant effect 
of this new stibium f on your guests ! It has cost me 
many trials before I could obtain it so perfect : I am sure 
nothing like it has been ever seen in Rome." 

" As for me," interrupted the wily Greek, " I should 
not presume to aspire to so high an honour. I should be 
satisfied to look from outside the door, and see the magni- 
ficent effect of this wonderful silk tunic, which came with 
the last remittance of gold from Asia. Nothing can equal 
its beauty ; nor, I may add, is its arrangement, the result 
of my study, unworthy of the materials." 

" And you, Syra," interposed the mistress, with a con- 
temptuous smile, " what would you desire ? and what have 
you to praise of your own doing?" 

" Nothing to desire, noble lady, but that you may be 
ever happy ; nothing to praise of my own doing, for I am 

* The dining-hall. t Black antimony applied on the eyelids. 



20 

not conscious of having- done more than my duty," was 
the modest and sincere reply. 

It did not please the haughty lady, who said, '' Me- 
thinks, slave, that you are not over given to praise. One 
seldom hears a soft word from your mouth." 

" And what worth would it he from me," answered 
Syra; "from a poor servant to a nohle dame, accustomed 
to hear it all day long from eloquent and polished lips ? 
Do you believe it when you hear it from them ? Do you 
not despise it when you receive it from vsf 

A look of spite was darted at her from her two com- 
panions. Fabiola too was angry at what she thought a 
reproof. A lofty sentiment in a slave ! 

" Have you yet to learn then," she answered haughtily, 
" that you are mine, and have been bought by me at a high 
price, that you might serve me as I please 'I I have as 
good a right to the service of your tongue as of your arms; 
and if it please me to be praised, and flattered, and sung 
to, by you, do it you shall, whether you like it or not. A 
new idea, indeed, that a slave has to have any will but that 
of her mistress, when her very life belongs to her !" 

" True," replied the handmaid, calmly but with dignity, 
" my life belongs to you, and so does all else that ends 
with life, — time, health, vigour, body, and breath. All tins 
you have bought Avith your gold, and it has become your 
property. But I still hold as my own what no emperor's 
wealth can purchase, no chains of slavery fetter, no limit 
of life contain." 

" And pray what is that ?" 

« A soul."' 

" A soul !" re-echoed the astonished Fabiola, who had 
never before heard a slave claim ownership of such a pro- 
perty. " And pray, let me ask you, what you mean by 
the word !" 

" I cannot speak philosophical sentences," answered the 
servant, " but I mean that inward living consciousness 
within me, which makes me feel to have an existence with, 
and among, better things than surround me, which shrinks 
sensitively from destruction, and instinctively from what is 
allied to it, as disease is to death. And therefore it abhors 



CH. IV.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 21 

all flattery, and it detests a lie. While I possess that un- 
seen gift, and die it cannot, either is impossible to me." 

The other two could understand but little of all this ; 
so they stood in stupid amazement at the presumption of 
their companion. Fabiola too was startled; but her pride 
soon rose again, and she spoke with visible impatience. 

" Where did you learn all this folly 1 Who has taught 
you to prate in this manner ? For my part, I have studied 
for many years, and have come to the conclusion, that all 
ideas of spiritual existences are the dreams of poets, or 
sophists ; and as such I despise them. Do you, an igno- 
rant, uneducated slave, pretend to know better than your 
mistress ? Or do you really fancy, that when, after death, 
your corpse will be thrown on the heap of slaves who have 
drunk themselves, or have been scourged, to death, to be 
burnt in one ignominious pile, and when the mingled 
ashes have been buried in a common pit, you will sur- 
vive as a conscious being, and have still a life of joy and 
freedom to be lived ?" 

" ' JVon omnis moriar, 1 * as one of your poets says," re- 
plied modestly, but with a fervent look that astonished her 
mistress, the foreign slave ; " yes, I hope, nay, I intend to 
survive all this. And more yet; I believe, and know, that 
out of that charn el-pit which you have so vividly de- 
scribed, there is a hand that will pick out each charred 
fragment of my frame. And there is a power that will call 
to reckoning the four winds of heaven, and make each give 
back every grain of my dust that it has scattered - r and I 
shall be built up once more in this my body, not as yours, 
or any one's, bondwoman, but free, and joyfuL and glo- 
rious, loving for ever, and beloved. This certain hope is 
laid up in my bosom. "f 

" What wild visions of an eastern fancy are these, un- 
fitting you for every duty ? You must be cured of them. 
In what school did you learn all this nonsense ? I never 
read of it in any Greek or Latin author." 

" In one belonging to my own land ; a school in which 
there is no distinction known, or admitted, between Greek 
or barbarian, freeman or slave." 

* Not all of me will die. t Job xix. 27. 



22 fabiola; or, 

" What !" exclaimed, with strong excitement, the 
haughty lady, " without waiting even for that future ideal 
existence after death ; already, even now, you presume to 
claim equality with me ? Nay, who knows, perhaps su- 
periority over me. Come, tell me at once, and without 
daring to equivocate or disguise, if you do so or not?" 
And she sat up in an attitude of eager expectation. At 
every word of the calm reply her agitation increased; 
and violent passions seemed to contend within her, as 
Syra said ; 

" Most nohle mistress, far superior are you to me in 
place, and power, and learning, and genius, and in all that 
enriches and embellishes life ; and in every grace of form 
and lineament, and in every charm of act and speech, higii 
are you raised above all rivalry, and far removed from 
envious thoug'ht, from one so lowly and so insignificant as 
I. But if I must answer simple truth to your authorita- 
tive question" — she paused, as faltering ; but an imperious 
gesture from her mistress bade her continue — " then I 
put it to your own judgment, whether a poor slave, who 
holds an unquenchable consciousness of possessing within 
her a spiritual and living intelligence, whose measure of 
existence is immortality, whose only true place of dwelling 
is above the skies, whose only rightful prototype is the 
Deity, can hold herself inferior in moral dignity, or lower 
in greatness of thought, than one who, however gifted, 
owns, that she claims no higher destiny, recognises in her- 
self no sublimer end, than what awaits the pretty irrational 
songsters that beat, without hope of liberty, against the 
gilded bars of that cage." * 

Fabiola's eyes flashed with fury ; she felt herself, for 
the first time in her life, rebuked, humbled by a slave. 
She grasped the style in her right hand, and made an 
almost blind thrust at the unflinching handmaid. Syra 
instinctively put forward her arm to save her person, and 
received the point, which, aimed upwards from the couch, 
inflicted a deeper gash than she had ever before suffered. 
The tears started into her eyes through the smart of the 

* See the noble answer of Evalpistus, an imperial slave, to the 
judge, in the Acts of St. Justin, ap. Ruinart, torn. i. 



CH. V.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 23 

wound, from which the blood gushed in a stream. Fabiola 
was in a moment ashamed of her cruel, though uninten- 
tional, act, and felt still more humbled before her servants. 

" Go, go," she said to Syra, who was stanching the 
blood with her handkerchief, " go to Euphrosyne, and 
have the wound dressed. I did not mean to hurt you so 
grievously. But stay a moment, I must make you some 
compensation." Then, after turning over her trinkets on 
the table, she continued, " Take this ring ; and you need 
not return here again this evening." 

Fabiola's conscience was quite satisfied ; she had made 
what she considered ample atonement for the injury she 
had inflicted, in the shape of a costly present to a menial 
dependant. And on the following Sunday, in the title * of 
St. Pastor, not far from her house, among the alms col- 
lected for the poor was found a valuable emerald ring, which 
the good priest Polycarp thought must have been the 
offering of some very rich Roman lady ; but which He who 
watched, with beaming eye, the alms-coffers of Jerusalem, 
and noted the widow's mite, alone saw dropped into the 
chest, by the bandaged arm of a foreign female slave. 



CHAPTEE V. 

THE VISIT. 

During the latter part of the dialogue just recorded, and 
the catastrophe which closed it, there took place an appa- 
rition in Fabiola's room, which, if seen by her, would pro- 
bably have cut short the one, and prevented the other. The 
interior chambers in a Roman house were more frequently 
divided by curtains across their entrances, than by doors ; 
and thus it was easy, especially during such an excited 
scene as had just taken place, to enter unobserved. This 
was the case now; and when Syra turned to leave the 
room, she was almost startled at seeing standing, in bright 

* Church. 



24 FABIOLA; OR, 

relief before the deep crimson door-curtain, a figure, which 
she immediately recognised, hut which we must briefly 
describe. 

It was that of a lady, or rather a child not more than 
twelve or thirteen years old, dressed in pure and spotless 
white, without a single ornament about her person. In 
her countenance might be seen united the simplicity of 
childhood with the intelligence of a maturer ag - e. There 
not merely dwelt in her eyes that dove-like innocence which 
the sacred poet describes,* but often there beamed from 
them rather an intensity of pure affection, as though they 
were looking beyond all surrounding objects, and rested 
upon one, unseen by all else, but to her really present, and 
exquisitely dear. Her forehead was the very seat of can- 
dour, open and bright with undisguising truthfulness ; a 
kindly smile played about the lips, and the fresh, youthful 
features varied their sensitive expression with guileless 
earnestness, passing rapidly from one feeling to the other, 
as her warm and tender heart received it. Those who 
knew her believed that she never thought of herself, but 
was divided entirely between kindness to those about her, 
and affection for her unseen love. 

When Syra saw this beautiful vision, like that of an 
angel, before her, she paused for a moment. But the child 
took her hand, and reverently kissed it, saying : " I have 
seen all ; meet me in the small chamber near the entrance, 
when I go out." 

She then advanced ; and as Fabiola saw her, a crimson 
blush mantled in her cheek ; for she feared the child had 
been witness of her undignified burst of passion. With a 
cold wave of her band she dismissed her slaves, and then 
greeted her kinswoman, for such she was, with cordial 
affection. We have said that Fabiola's temper made a few 
exceptions in its haughty exercise. One of these was her 
old nurse and freedwoman Euphrosyne, who directed all 
her private household ; and whose only creed was, that 
Fabiola was the most perfect of being-s, the wisest, most 
accomplished, most admirable lady in Rome. Another was 

* " Thy eyes are as those of doves." — Cantic. i. 14, 



CH. V.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 25 

her young visitor, whom she loved, and ever treated with 
gentlest affection, and whose society she always coveted. 

" This is really kind of you, dear Agnes," said the 
softened Fabiola, "to come at my sudden request, to join 
our table to-day. But the fact is, my father has called in 
one or two new people to dine, and I was anxious to have 
some one with whom I could have the excuse of a duty to 
converse. Yet I own I have some curiosity about one of 
our new guests. It is Fulvius, of whose grace, wealth, 
and accomplishments I hear so much; though nobody seems 
to know who or what he is, or whence he has sprung up." 

" My dear Fabiola," replied Agnes, " you know I am 
always happy to visit you, and my kind parents willingly 
allow me ; therefore, make no apologies about that." 

" And so you have come to me as usual," said the other 
playfully, " in your own snow-white dress, without jewel 
or ornament, as if you were every day a bride. You always 
seem to me to be celebrating one eternal espousal. But, 
good heavens ! what is this '( Are you hurt I Or are you 
aware that there is, right on the bosom of your tunic, a 
large red spot — it looks like blood. If so, let me change 
your dress at once." 

" Not for the world, Fabiola ; it is the jewel, the only 
ornament I mean to wear this evening. It is blood, and 
that of a slave ; but nobler, in my eyes, and more generous, 
than flows in your veins or mine." 

The whole truth flashed upon Fabiola's mind. Agnes 
had seen all; and humbled almost to sickening, she said 
somewhat pettishly, " Do you then wish to exlnbit proof 
to all the world of my hastiness of temper, in over-chas- 
tising a forward slave '<"' 

" No, dear cousin, far from it. I only wish to preserve 
for myself a lesson of fortitude, and of elevation of mind, 
learnt from a slave, such as few patrician philosophers can 
teach us." 

" What a strange idea ! Indeed, Agnes, I have often 
thought that you make too much of that class of people. 
After all, what are they ?" 

" Human beings as much as ourselves, endowed with 
the same reason, the same feelings, the same organisation. 



26 

Thus far you will admit, at any rate, to go no higher. 
Then they form part of the same family; and if God, from 
whom comes our life, is thereby our Father, He is theirs as 
much, and consequently they are our brethren." 

" A slave my brother or sister, Agnes ? The gods 
forbid it ! They are our property and our goods ; and I 
have no notion of their being allowed to move, to act, to 
think, or to feel, except as it suits their masters, or is for 
their advantage." 

" Come, come," said Agnes, with her sweetest tones, 
" do not let lis get into a warm discussion. You are too 
candid and honourable not to feel, and to be ready to ac- 
knowledge, that to-day you have been outdone by a slave 
in all that you most admire, — in mind, in reasoning, in 
truthfulness, and in heroic fortitude. Do not answer me ; 
I see it in that tear. But, dearest cousin, I will save you 
from a repetition of your pain. Will you grant me my 
request?" 

" Any in my power." 

" Then it is, that you will allow me to purchase Syra — 
I think that is her name. You will not like to see her 
about you." 

" You are mistaken, Agnes. I will master pride for 
once, and own, that I shall now esteem her, perhaps almost 
admire her. It is a new feeling in me towards one in her 
station." 

" But I think, Fabiola, I could make her happier than 
she is." 

" No doubt, dear Agnes; you have the power of making 
every body happy about you. I never saw such a house- 
hold as yours. You seem to carry out in practice that 
strange philosophy which Syra alluded to, in which there 
is no distinction of freeman and slave. Every body in your 
house is always smiling, and cheerfully anxious to discharge 
his duty. And there seems to be no one who thinks of 
commanding. Come, tell me your secret." (Agnes smiled.) 
" I suspect, you little magician, that in that mysterious 
chamber, which you will never open for me, you keep your 
charms and potions by which you make every body and 
every thing love you. If you were a Christian, and were 



CH. V.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 27 

exposed in the amphitheatre, I am sure the very leopards 
would crouch and nestle at your feet. But why do you 
look so serious, child ? You know I am only joking." 

Agnes seemed absorbed ; and bent forward that keen 
and tender look which we have mentioned, as though she 
saw before her, nay as if she heard speaking to her, some 
one delicately beloved. It passed away, and she gaily said, 
" Well, well, Fabiola, stranger things have come to pass ; 
and at any rate, if aught so dreadful had to happen, Syra 
would just be the sort of person one would like to see near 
one ; so you really must let me have her." 

" For heaven's sake, Agnes, do not take my words so 
seriously. I assure you they were spoken in jest. I have 
too high an opinion of your good sense to believe such a 
calamity possible. But as to Syra's devotedness, you are 
right. When last summer you were away, and I was so 
dangerously ill of contagious fever, it required the lash to 
make the other slaves approach me ; while that poor thing 
would hardly leave me, but watched by me, and nursed 
me day and night, and I really believe greatly promoted 
my recovery." 

" And did you not love her for this ?" 

" Love her ! Love a slave, child ! Of course, I took 
care to reward her generously ; though I cannot make 
out what she does with what I give her. The others tell 
me she has nothing put by, and she certainly spends no- 
thing on herself. Nay, I have even heard that she fool- 
ishly shares her daily allowance of food with a blind beggar- 
girl. What a strange fancy, to be sure ! " 

" Dearest Fabiola," exclaimed Agnes, " she must be 
mine ! You promised me my request. Name your price, 
and let me take her home this evening." 

" Well, be it so, you most irresistible of petitioners. 
But we will not bargain together. Send some one to- 
morrow, to see my father's steward, and all will be right. 
And now this great piece of business being settled between 
us, let us go down to our guests." 

" But you have forgotten to put on your jewels." 

" Never mind them; I will do without them for once : 
I feel no taste for them to-day." 



28 fabiola; or, 



CHAPTEE VI. 

THE BANQUET. 

They found, on descending - , all the guests assembled in 
a hall below. It was not a state banquet which they were 
going to share, but the usual meal of a rich house, where 
preparation for a tableful of friends was always made. 
We will therefore content ourselves with saying, that every 
thing- was elegant and exquisite in arrangement and ma- 
terial ; and we will confine ourselves entirely to such inci- 
dents as may throw a light upon our story. 

When the two ladies entered the exedra or hall, Fabius, 
after saluting his daughter, exclaimed : " Why, my child, 
you have come down, though late, still scarcely fittingly 
arranged ! You have forgotten your usual trinkets. " 

Fabiola was confused. She knew not what answer to 
make : she was ashamed of her weakness about her an- 
gry display; and still more of what she now thought a 
silly way of punishing herself for it. Agnes stepped in to 
the rescue ; and blushingly said : " It is my fault, cousin 
Fabius, both that she is late, and that she is so plainly 
dressed. I detained her with my gossip; and no doubt 
she wishes to keep me in countenance by the simplicity of 
her attire." 

" You, dear Agnes," replied the father, " are privi- 
leged to do as you please. But, seriously speaking, I 
must say, that even with you, this may have answered 
while you were a mere child ; now that you are marriage- 
able,* you must begin to make a little more display, and 
try to win the affections of some handsome and eligible 
youth. A beautiful necklace, for instance, such as you 
have plenty of at home, would not make you less attrac- 
tive. But you are not attending- to me. Come, come, I 
dare say you have some one already in view." 

During most of this address, which was meant to be 
thoroughly good-natured, as it was perfectly worldly, 
Agnes appeared in one of her abstracted moods, her be- 

* Twelve was the age for marriage, according to the Roman law. 



CH. VI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 29 

witched looks, as Fabiola called them, transfixed, in a 
smiling- ecstasy, as if attending to some one else, but never 
losing the thread of the discourse, nor saying any thing 
out of place. She therefore at once answered Fabius : " Oh, 
yes, most certainly, one who has already pledged me to 
him by his betrothal-ring, and has adorned me with im- 
mense jewels."* 

" Really !" asked Fabius, "with what ?" 

"Why," answered Agnes, with a look of glowing 
earnestness, and in tones of artless simplicity, " he has 
girded my hand and neck with precious gems, and has set 
in my ears rings of peerless pearls. "f 

" Goodness ! who can it be ? Come, Agnes, some day 
you must tell me your secret. Your first love, no doubt : 
may it last long - and make you happy ! " 

" For ever ! " was her reply, as she turned to join Fa- 
biola, and enter with her into the dining-room. It was 
well she had not overheard this dialogue, or she would 
have been hurt to the quick, as thinking that Agnes had 
concealed the most important thought of her ag'e, as she 
would have considered it, from her most loving - friend. But 
while Agnes was defending her, she had turned away from 
her father, and had been attending to the other guests. 
One was a heavy, thick-necked Roman sophist, or dealer 
in universal knowledge, named Calpurnius ; another, Pro- 
culus, a mere lover of good fare, often at the house. Two 
more remain, deserving - further notice. The first of them, 
evidently a favourite both with Fabiola and Ag-nes, was a 
tribune, a high officer of the imperial or praetorian guard. 
Though not above thirty years of age, he had already dis- 
tinguished himself by his valour, and enjoyed the highest 
favour with the emperors Dioclesian in the East, and Max- 
imian Herculius in Rome. He was free from all affec- 
tation in manner or dress, though handsome in person; 
and though most engaging in conversation, he manifestly 
scorned the foolish topics which generally occupied society 

* " Annulo fidei suse subarrhavit me, et immensis monilibus or- 
navit me." — Office of St. Agnes. 

f " Uexteram meam et collum meum cinxit lapidibus pretiosis, 
tradidit auribus meis inaestimabiles margaritas." 



30 fabiola; or, 

In short, lie was a perfect specimen of a noble-hearted 
youth, full of honour and generous thoughts; strong and 
brave, without a particle of pride or display in him. 

Quite a contrast to him was the last guest, already 
alluded to by Fabiola, the new star of society, Fulvius. 
Young - , and almost effeminate in look, dressed with most 
elaborate elegance, with brilliant rings on every finger, and 
jewels in his dress, affected in his speech, which had a 
slightly foreign accent, overstrained in his courtesy of 
manners, but apparently good-natured and obliging - , he 
had in a short time quietly pushed his way into the highest 
society of .Rome. This was, indeed, owing- partly to his 
having been seen at the imperial court, and partly to the 
fascination of his manner. He had arrived in Rome ac- 
companied by a single elderly attendant, evidently deeply 
attached to him ; whether slave, freedman, or friend, nobody 
well knew. They spoke together always in a strange 
tongue, and the swarthy features, keen fiery eye, and 
unamiable expression of the domestic, inspired a certain 
degree of fear in his dependants ; for Fulvius had taken 
an apartment in what was called an insula, or house let 
out in parts, had furnished it luxuriously, and had peopled 
it with a sufficient bachelor's establishment of slaves. Pro- 
fusion rather than abundance distinguished all his do- 
mestic arrangements; and, in the corrupted and degraded 
circle of pagan Rome, the obscurity of his history, and the 
suddenness of his apparition, were soon forgotten in the 
evidence of his riches, and the charm of his loose con- 
versation. A shrewd observer of character, however, 
would soon notice a wandering restlessness of eye, and an 
eagerness of listening attention for all sights and sounds 
around him, which betrayed an insatiable curiosity; and, 
in moments of forgetfulness, a dark scowl, under his knit 
brows, from his flashing eyes, and a curling of the upper 
lip, which inspired a feeling of mistrust, and gave an idea 
that his exterior softness only clothed a character of feline 
malignity. 

The guests were soon at table ; and as ladies sat, while 
men reclined on couches during the repast, Fabiola and 
Agnes were together on one side, the two younger guests 



CH. VI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 31 

last described were opposite, and the master, with his two 
elder friends in the middle — if these terms can be used to 
describe their position about three parts of a round table ; 
one side being- left unencumbered by the sigma* or semi- 
circular couch, for the convenience of serving. And we 
may observe, in passing, that a table-cloth, a luxury un- 
known in the times of Horace, was now in ordinary use. 

When the first claims of hunger, or the palate, had 
been satisfied, conversation grew more general. 

" What news to-day at the baths?" asked Calpurnius; 
" I have no leisure myself to look after such trifles." 

" Very interesting news indeed," answered Proculus, 
" It seems quite certain that orders have been received 
from the divine Dioclesian, to finish his Thermae in three 
years." 

"Impossible!" exclaimed Fabius. "I looked in at 
the works the other day, on my way to Sallust's gardens, 
and found them very little advanced in the last year. 
There is an immense deal of heavy work to be done, such 
as carving marbles and shaping columns." 

" True," interposed Fulvius; " but I know that orders 
have been sent to all parts, to forward hither all prisoners, 
and all persons condemned to the mines in Spain, Sardinia, 
and even Chersonesus, who can possibly be spared, to come 
and labour at the Thermse. A few thousand Christians, 
thus set to the work, will soon finish it." 

" And why Christians better than other criminals ? " 
asked, with some curiosity, Fabiola. 

" Why, really," said Fulvius, with his most winning 
smile, " I can hardly give a reason for it ; but the fact is 
so. Among fifty workmen so condemned, I would eng'age 
to pick out a single Christian." 

" Indeed !" exclaimed several at once ; " pray how?" 
" Ordinary convicts," answered he, " naturally do not 
love their work, and they require the lash at every step to 
compel them to perform it ; and when the overseer's eye 
is off them, no work is done. And, moreover, they are, 
of course, rude, sottish, quarrelsome, and querulous. But 

* So called from its resemblance to the letter C, the old form 
of 2. 



32 

the Christians, when condemned to these public works, 
seem, on the contrary, to be g'lad, and are always cheerful 
and obedient. I have seen young patricians so occupied 
in Asia, whose hands had never before handled a pickaxe, 
and whose weak shoulders had never borne a weight, yet 
working 1 hard, and as happy, to all appearance, as when 
at home. Of course, for all that, the overseers apply the 
lash and the stick very freely to them ; and most justly ; 
because it is the will of the divine emperors that their lot 
should be made as hard as possible ; but still they never 
complain." 

" I cannot say that I admire this sort of justice," replied 
Fabiola ; " but what a strange race they must be ! I am 
most curious to know what can be the motive or cause 
of this stupidity, or unnatural insensibility, in these Christ- 
ians?" 

Proculus replied, with a facetious look: " Calpurnius 
here no doubt can tell us ; for he is a philosopher, and I 
hear could declaim for an hour on any topic, from the Alps 
to an ant-hill." 

Calpurnius, thus challenged, and thinking himself 
highly complimented, solemnly gave mouth : " The Christ- 
ians/' said he, " are a foreign sect, the founder of which 
flourished many ages ago in Chaldea. His doctrines were 
brought to Rome at the time of Vespasian by two brothers 
named Peter and Paul. Some maintain that these were 
the same twin brothers as the Jews call Moses and Aaron, 
the second of whom sold his birthright to his brother for 
a kid, the skin of which he wanted to make cliirothecas* 
of. But this identity I do not admit; as it is recorded in 
the mystical books of the Jews, that the second of these 
brothers, seeing the other's victims give better omens of 
birds than his own, slew him, as our Romulus did Remus, 
but with the jaw-bone of an ass ; for which he was hung- 
by KingMardochaeus ofMacedon,upon a g'ibbet fifty cubits 
high, at the suit of their sister Judith. However, Peter 
and Paul coming, as I said, to Rome, the former was dis- 
covered to be a fug-itive slave of Pontius Pilate, and was 
crucified by his master's orders on the Janiculum. Their 

* Gloves. 



CII. VI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 33 

followers, of whom they had many, made the cross their 
symhol, and adore it ; and they think it the greatest honour 
to suffer stripes, and even ignominious death, as the hest 
means of being like their teachers, and, as they fancy, of 
going to them in a place somewhere among the clouds."* 

This lucid explanation of the origin of Christianity was 
listened to with admiration by all except two. The young 
officer gave a piteous look towards Agnes, which seemed 
to say, " Shall I answer the goose, or shall I laugh out- 
right ?" But she put her fing-er on her lips, and smiled 
imploringly for silence. 

" Well, then, the upshot of it is," observed Proculus, 
" that the Thermae will be finished soon, and we shall have 
glorious sport. Is it not said, Fulvius, that the divine 
Dioclesian will himself come to the dedication ?" 

" It is quite certain ; and so will there be splendid festi- 
vals and glorious games. But we shall not have to wait 
so long ; already, for other purposes, have orders been sent 
to Numidia for an unlimited supply of lions and leopards 
to be ready before winter." Then turning round sharp to 
his neighbour, he said, bending a keen eye upon his coun- 
tenance : " A brave soldier like you, Sebastian, must be 
delighted with the noble spectacles of the amphitheatre, 
especially when directed against the enemies of the august 
emperors, and of the republic." 

The officer raised himself upon his couch, looked on 
his interrogator with an unmoved, majestic countenance, 
and answered calmly : 

" Fulvius, I should not deserve the title which you 
give me, could I contemplate with pleasure, in cold blood, 
the struggle, if it deserve the name, between a brute beast, 
and a helpless child or woman, for such are the spectacles 
which you call noble. No, I will draw my sword willingly 
against any enemy of the princes or the state ; but I would 
as readily draw it against the lion or the leopard that 
should rush, even by imperial order, against the innocent 
and defenceless." Fulvius was starting- up ; but Sebastian 
placed his strong hand upon his arm, and continued : " Hear 

* Lucian : De Morte Peregrini. 
D 



34 FABIOLAJ OR, 

me out. I am not the first Roman, nor the noblest, who 
has thoug-ht thus before me. Remember the words of 
Cicero : ' Magnificent are these games, no doubt ; but what 
delight can it be to a refined mind to see either a feeble 
man torn by a most powerful beast, or a noble animal 
pierced through by a javelin ?'* I am not ashamed of 
agreeing with the greatest of Roman orators." 

"Then shall we never see you in the amphitheatre, 
Sebastian?" asked Fulvius, with a bland but taunting 
tone. 

" If you do," the soldier replied, " depend upon it, it 
will be on the side of the defenceless, not on that of the 
brutes that would destroy them." 

" Sebastian is right," exclaimed Fabiola, clapping her 
hands, " and I close the discussion by my applause. I have 
never heard Sebastian speak, except on the side of generous 
and high-minded sentiments." 

Fulvius bit his lip in silence, and all rose to depart. 



CHAPTEE VII. 

POOR AND RICH. 

During the latter part of the conversation just recorded, 
Fabius had been quite abstracted, speculating upon his 
conversation with Agnes. How quietly she had kept her 
secret to herself ! But who could this favoured person be, 
who had already won her heart? He thought over many, 
but could find no answer. The gift of rich jewels parti- 
cularly perplexed him. He knew no young Roman noble- 
man likely to possess them; and sauntering, as he did, 
every day into the great shops, he was sure to have heard 
if any such costly order had been given. Suddenly the 
bright idea flashed through his mind, that Fulvius, who 
daily exhibited new and splendid gems, brought from 

* " Magnifies nemo negat ; sed quse potest esse homini polito 
delectatio, quum aut homo imbecillus a valentissima bestia laniatur, 
aut prseclara bestia venabulo transverberatur?" — Ep. ad Fam. lib. 
vii. ep. 1. 



CH. VII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 35 

abroad, could be the only person able to make her such 
presents. He moreover noticed such occasional looks 
darted towards his cousin by the handsome foreigner, as 
left him no doubt that he was deeply enamoured of her ; 
and if Agnes did not seem conscious of the admiration, this 
of course was part of her plan. Once convinced of this 
important conclusion, he determined to favour the wishes 
of the two, and astonish his daughter one day by the 
sagacity he had displayed. 

But we must leave our nobler guests for more humble 
scenes, and follow Syra from the time that she left her 
young mistress's apartment. When she presented herself 
to Euphrosyne, the good-natured nurse was shocked at the 
cruel wound, and uttered an exclamation of pity. But 
immediately recognising in it the work of Fabiola, she was 
divided between two contending- feelings. " Poor thing !" 
she said, as she went on first washing - , then closing and 
dressing, the gash ; " it is a dreadful cut ! What did you 
do to deserve it ? How it must have hurt you, my poor 
girl ! But how 'wicked you must have been to bring' it 
upon yourself ! It is a savage wound, yet inflicted by the 
gentlest of creatures ! (You must be faint from loss of 
blood ; take this cordial to support you) : and no doubt she 
found herself obliged to strike." 

" No doubt," said Syra, amused, " it was all my fault; 
I had no business to argue with my mistress." 

"Argue with her! — argue! — ye gods! who ever 
heard before of a slave arguing with a noble mistress, and 
such a learned one ! Why, Calpurnius himself would be 
afraid of disputing with her. No wonder, indeed, she was 
so — so agitated, as not to know that she was hurting you. 
But this must be concealed ; it must not be known that 
you have been so wrong - . Have you no scarf or nice veil 
that we could throw round the arm, as if for ornament ? 
All the others, I know, have plenty, given or bought ; but 
you never seem to care for these pretty things. Let us 
look." 

She went into the maid-slaves' dormitory, which was 
within her room, opened Syra's capsa or box, and after 
turning over in vain its scanty contents, she drew forth 



36 fabiola; or, 

from the bottom a square kerchief of richest stuff, magnifi- 
cently embroidered, and even adorned with pearls. Syra 
blushed deeply, and entreated not to be oblig'ed to wear 
this most disproportioned piece of dress, especially as it was 
a token of better days, long- and painfully preserved. But 
Euphrosyne, anxious to hide her mistress's fault, was in- 
exorable; and the rich scarf was gracefully fastened round 
the wounded arm. 

This operation performed, Syra proceeded to the little 
parlour opposite the porter's room, where the higher slaves 
could see their friends. She held in her hand a basket 
covered with a napkin. The moment she entered the door, 
a light step came bounding across the room to meet her. 
It was that of a girl of about sixteen or seventeen, dressed 
in the poorest attire, but clean and neat, who threw her 
arms round Syra's neck with such a bright countenance 
and such hearty glee, that a bystander would harldly have 
supposed, that her sightless eyes had never communed 
with the outer world. 

" Sit down, dear Csecilia," said Syra, with a most affec- 
tionate tone, and leading her to a seat ; " to-day I have 
brought you a famous feast : you will fare sumptuously." 

" How so ? I think I do every day." 

" No, but to-day my mistress has kindly sent me out 
a dainty dish from her table, and I have brought it here 
for you." 

" How kind of her; yet how much kinder of you, my 
sister ! But why have you not partaken of it yourself? 
It was meant for you, and not for me." 

" Why, to tell the truth, it is a greater treat to me, to 
see you enjoy any thing, than to enjoy it myself." 

" No, dear Syra, no ; it must not be. God has wished 
me to be poor, and I must try to do His will. I could no 
more think of eating the food, than I could of wearing the 
dress, of the rich, so long as I can obtain that of the poor. 
I love to share with you your pulmentum* which I know 
is given me in charity by one poor like myself. I procure 
for you the merit of alms-deeds ; you give me the conso- 

* Porridge. 



CH. VII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 37 

lation of feeling' that I am, before God ; still only a poor 
blind thing-. I think He will love me better thus, than if 
feeding- on luxurious fare. I would rather be with Lazarus 
at the gate, than with Dives at the table." 

" How much better and wiser you are than I, my g-ood 
child ! It shall be as you wish. I will give the dish to 
my companions, and, in the meantime, here I set before 
you your usual humble fare." 

" Thanks, thanks, dear sister ; I will await your return." 
Syra went to the maids' apartment, and put before her 
jealous but greedy companions, the silver dish. As their 
mistress occasionally showed them this little kindness, it 
did not much surprise them. But the poor servant was 
weak enough to feel ashamed, of appearing before her 
comrades, with the rich scarf round her arm. She took 
it off before she entered ; then, not wishing- to displease 
Euphrosyne, replaced it, as well as she could with one 
hand, on coming out. She was in the court below, re- 
turning to her blind friend, when she saw one of the noble 
guests of her mistress's table alone, and, with a mortified 
look, crossing towards the door, and she stepped behind a 
column, to avoid any possible, and not uncommon, rude- 
ness. It was Fulvius ; and no sooner did she, unseen, 
catch a glimpse of him, than she stood for a moment as 
one nailed to the spot. Her heart beat against her bosom, 
then quivered as if about to cease its action; her knees 
struck against one another, a shiver ran through her frame, 
while perspiration started on her brow. Her eyes, wide 
open, were fascinated, like the bird's before the snake. 
She raised her hand to her breast, made upon it the sign 
of life, and the spell was broken. She fled in an instant, 
still unnoticed ; and had hardly stepped noiselessly behind 
a curtain that closed the stairs, when Fulvius, with down- 
cast eyes, reached the spot on which she had stood. He 
started back a step, as if scared by something lying before 
him. He trembled violently; but recovering himself by 
a sudden effort, he looked around him, and saw that he 
was alone. There was no eye upon him — except One 
which he did not heed, but which read his evil heart in 
that hour. He gazed again upon the object, and stooped 



38 fabiola; oh, 

to pick it up; but drew back bis hand, and that more 
than once. At last he heard footsteps approaching-, he 
recognised the martial tread of Sebastian ; and hastily he 
snatched up from the ground the rich scarf which had 
dropped from Syra's arm. He shook as he folded it up ; 
and when, to his horror, he found upon it spots of fresh 
blood, which had oozed through the bandages, he reeled, 
like a drunken man, to the door, and rushed to his lodgings. 

Pale, sick, and staggering - , he went into his chamber, 
repulsing roughly the officious advances of his slaves ; and 
only beckoned to his faithful domestic to follow him, and 
then signed to him to bar the door. A lamp was burning 
brightly by the table, on which Fulvius threw the em- 
broidered scarf in silence, and pointed to the stains of 
blood. That dark man said nothing ; but his swarthy 
countenance was blanched, while his master's was ashy 
and livid. 

" It is the same, no doubt," at length spoke the attend- 
ant, in their foreign tong-ue; " but she is certainly dead." 

" Art thou quite sure, Eurotas ?" asked the master, 
with the keenest of his hawk's looks. 

" As sure as man can be of what he has not seen 
himself. "Where didst thou find this ? And whence this 
blood?" 

" I will tell thee all to-morrow ; I am too sick to-night. 
As to those stains, which were liquid when I found it, I 
know not whence they came, unless they are warnings of 
vengeance — nay a vengeance themselves, deep as the 
Furies could meditate, fierce as they can launch. That 
blood has not been shed now." 

" Tut, tut ! this is no time for dreams or fancies. Did 
any one see thee pick the — the thing up ?" 

" No one, I am sure." 

" Then we are safe ; better in our hands than in others'. 
A good night's rest will give us better counsel." 

" True, Eurotas ; but do thou sleep this night in my 
chamber." 

Both threw themselves on their couches : Fulvius on a 
rich bed, Eurotas on a lowly pallet ; from which, raised 
apon his elbow, with dark but earnest eye, he long watched, 



CH. VII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 39 

by the lamp's light, the troubled slumbers of the youth, — 
at once his devoted guardian and his evil genius. Ful- 
vius tossed about, and moaned in his sleep, for his dreams 
were gloomy and heavy. First he sees before him a beauti- 
ful city in a distant land, with a river of crystal brightness 
flowing through it. Upon it is a galley weighing anchor, 
with a figure on deck, waving towards him, in farewell, an 
embroidered scarf. The scene changes ; the ship is in 
the midst of the sea, battling with a furious storm, while 
on the summit of the mast the same scarf streams out, 
like a pennant, unruffled and uncrumpled by the breeze. 
The vessel is now dashed upon a rock, and all with a dread- 
ful shriek are buried in the deep. But the topmast stands 
above the billows, with its calm and brilliant flag; till, 
amidst the sea-birds that shriek around, a form with a 
torch in her hand, and black flapping wings, flies by, 
snatches it from the staff, and with a look of stern anger 
displays it, as in her flight she pauses before him. He 
reads upon it, written in fiery letters, Nemesis.* 

But it is time to return to our other acquaintances in 
the house of Fabius. 

After Syra had heard the- door close on Fulvius, she 
paused to compose herself, offered up a secret prayer, and 
returned to her blind friend. She had finished her frugal 
meal, and was waiting patiently the slave's return. Syra 
then commenced her daily duties of kindness and hospi- 
tality ; she brought water, washed her hands and feet, in 
obedience to Christian practice, and combed and dressed 
her hair, as if the poor creature had been her own child. 
Indeed, though not much older, her look was so tender, as 
she hung over her poor friend, her tones were so soft, her 
whole action so motherly, that one would have thought it 
was a parent ministering to her daughter, rather than a 
slave serving a beg'gar. And this beggar too looked so 
happy, spoke so cheerily, and said such beautiful things, 
that Syra lingered over her work, to listen to her, and 
gaze on her. 

It was at this moment that Agnes came for her ap- 

* Vengeance. 



40 

pointed interview, and Fabiola insisted on accompanying 
her to the door. But when Ag-nes softly raised the cur- 
tain, and caught a sight of the scene before her, she 
beckoned to Fabiola to look in, enjoining silence by her 
gesture. The blind girl was opposite, and her voluntary 
servant on one side, unconscious of witnesses. The heart 
of Fabiola was touched ; she had never imagined that 
there was such a thing as disinterested love on earth be- 
tween strangers ■ as to charity, it was a word unknown to 
Greece or Rome. She retreated quietly, with a tear in her 
eye, and said to Agnes, as she took leave, 

iC I must retire ; that girl, as you know, proved to me 
this afternoon, that a slave may have a head ; she has now 
shown me that she may have a heart. I was amazed, 
when, a few hours ago, you asked me if I did not love a 
slave. I think, now, I could almost love Syra. I half re- 
gret that I have agreed to part with her." 

As she went back into the court, Agues entered the 
room, and laughing, said, 

" So, Csecilia, I have found out your secret at last. 
This is the friend whose food you have always said was 
so much better than mine, that you would never eat at 
my house. "Well, if the dinner is not better, at any rate 
I agTee that you have fallen in with a better hostess." 

" Oh, don't say so, sweet Lady Agnes," answered the 
blind girl : " it is the dinner indeed that is better. You 
have plenty of opportunities for exercising charity ; but a 
poor slave can only do so, by finding some one still poorer, 
and helpless, like me. That thought makes her food by 
far the sweetest." 

" Well, you are right," said Ag-nes, " and I am not 
sorry to have you present, to hear the good news I bring 
to Syra. It will make you happy too. Fabiola. has allowed 
me to become your mistress, Syra, and to take you with 
me. To-morrow you shall be free, and a dear sister to 
me." 

Csecilia clapped her hands with joy, and throwing her 
arms round Syra's neck, exclaimed : " Oh, how good ! 
How happy you will now be, dear Syra !" 

But Syra was deeply troubled, and replied with falter- 



CH. VII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 41 

ing* voice, " good and gentle lady, you have been kind 
indeed, to think so much about one like me. But pardon 
me, if I entreat you to remain as I am ; I assure you, dear 
Csecilia, I am quite happy here." 

" But why wish to stay ?" asked Agnes. 

" Because," rejoined Syra, " it is most perfect to abide 
with God, in the state wherein we have been called.* T 
own this is not the one in which I was born; I have 
been brought to it by others." A burst of tears interrupted 
her for a moment, and then she went on. " But so much 
the more clear is it to me, that God has willed me to serve 
Him in this condition. How can I wish to leave it ?" 

" Well then," said Agnes, still more eagerly, " we can 
easily manage it. I will not free you, and you shall be 
my bondwoman. That will be just the same." 

" No, no," said Syra, smiling, " that will never do. 
Our great Apostle's instructions to us are : ' Servants, be 
subject to your masters with all fear, not only to the g'ood 
and gentle, but also to the froward.'f I am far from 
saying that my mistress is one of these ; but you, noble 
Lady Agnes, are too good and g-entle for me. Where 
would be my cross, if I lived with you? You do not 
know how proud and headstrong- I am by nature ; and 
I shoidd fear for myself, if I had not some pain and 
humiliation." 

Agnes was almost overcome ; but she was more eager 
than ever to possess such a treasure of virtue, and said, 
" I see, Syra, that no motive addressed to your own in- 
terest can move you, I must therefore use a more selfish 
plea. I want to have you with me, that I may improve 
by your advice and example. Come, you will not refuse 
such a request." 

" Selfish," replied the slave, " you can never be. And 
therefore I will appeal to yourself from your request. You 
know Fabiola, and you love her. What a noble sold, 
and what a splendid intellect she possesses ! What g - reat 
qualities and high accomplishments, if they only reflected 
the light of truth ! And how jealously does she guard in 

* 1 Cor. vii. 24. f 1 Pet. ii. 14. 



42 fabiola; or, 

herself that pearl of virtues, which only we know how to 
prize ! What a truly great Christian she would make !" 

" Go on, for God's sake, dear Syra," hroke out Agnes, 
all eagerness. " And do you hope for it ?" 

" It is my prayer day and night ; it is my chief thought 
and aim ; it is the occupation of my life. I will try to win 
her by patience, by assiduity, even by such unusual dis- 
cussions as we have held to-day. And when all is ex- 
hausted, I have one resource more." 

"What is that?" both asked. 

" To give my life for her conversion. I know that a 
poor slave like me has few chances of martyrdom. Still, a 
fiercer persecution is said to bj approaching, and perhaps 
it will not disdain such humble victims. But be that as 
God pleases, my life for her soul is placed in His hands. 
And oh, dearest, best of ladies," she exclaimed, falling on 
her knees and bedewing Agnes's hand with tears, " do not 
come in thus between me and my prize." 

" You have conquered, sister Syra (oh ! never again 
call me lady)," said Agnes. "Remain at your post; such 
single-hearted, generous virtue must triumph. It is too 
sublime for so homely a sphere as my household." 

" And I, for my part," subjoined Ccecilia, with a look 
of arch gravity, " say that she has said one very wicked 
thing, and told a great story, this evening." 

" What is that, my pet ?" asked Syra, laughing. 

" Why, you said that I was wiser and better than you, 
because I declined eating some trumpery delicacy, which 
would have gratified my palate for a few minutes, at the 
expense of an act of greediness ; while you have given up 
liberty, happiness, the free exercise of your religion, and 
have offered to give up life itself, for the salvation of one 
who is your tyrant and tormentor. Oh, fie ! how could 
you tell me such a tiling !" 

The servant now announced that Agnes's litter was 
waiting at the door ; and any one who could have seen the 
affectionate farewell of the three, — the noble lady, the 
slave, and the beggar, would have justly exclaimed, as 
people had often done before, " See how these Christians 
love one another !" 



Cn. VIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 43 



CHAPTEE VIII. 

THE MRST DAY'S CONCLUSION. 

If we linger a little time about the door, and see Agues 
fairly off, and listen to the merry conversation between her 
and Csecilia, in which Agnes asks her to allow herself to be 
accompanied home by one of her attendants, as it has grown 
dark, and the girl is amused at the lady's forg-etfulness 
that day and night are the same to her, and that on this 
very account she is the appointed guide to thread the mazes 
of the catacombs, familiar to her as the streets of Rome, 
which she walks in safety at all hours ; if thus we pass a 
little time before re-entering, to inquire how the mistress 
within fares after the day's adventures, we shall find the 
house turned topsy-turvy. Slaves, with lamps and torches, 
are running" about in every direction, looking for something 
or other that is lost, in every possible and impossible place. 
Euphrosyne insists it must be found ; till at last the search 
is given up in despair. The reader will probably have an- 
ticipated the solution of the mystery. Syra had presented 
herself to have her wound re-dressed, according to orders, 
and the scarf which had bound it was no longer there. 
She could give no account of it, further than that she had 
taken it off, and put it on, certainly not so well as Euphrosyne 
had done it, and she gave the reason, for she scorned to tell 
a lie. Indeed she had never missed it till now. The kind- 
hearted old nurse was much g-rieved at the loss, which she 
considered must be heavy to a poor slave-girl, as she pro- 
bably reserved that object for the purchase of her liberty. 
And Syra too was sorry, but for reasons which she could 
not have made the good housekeeper comprehend. 

Euphrosyne had all the servants interrogated, and many 
even searched, to Syra's great pain and confusion; and 
then ordered a grand general battue throug'h every part 
of the house where Syra had been. Who for a moment 
could have dreamt of suspecting a noble gniest at the 
master's table of purloining any article, valuable or not ? 
The old lady therefore came to the conclusion, that the 



44 FABIOLA; OR, 

scarf had been spirited away by some magical process ; and 
greatly suspected that the black slave Afra, who she knew 
could not bear Syra, had been using - some spell to annoy 
the poor girl. For she believed the Moor to be a very 
Canidia,* being often obliged to let her go out alone at 
night, under pretence of gathering herbs at full moon for 
her cosmetics, as if plucked at any other time, they would 
not possess the same virtues ; to procure deadly poisons 
Euphrosyne suspected, but in reality to join in the hideous 
orgies of Fetichismf with others of her race, or to hold in- 
terviews with such as consulted her imaginary art. It was 
not till all was given up, and Syra found herself alone, that 
on more coolly recollecting the incidents of the day, she 
remembered the pause in Fulvius's walk across the court, 
at the very spot where she had stood, and his hurried steps, 
after this, to the door. The conviction then flashed on her 
mind, that she must have there dropped her kerchief, and 
that he must have picked it up. That he should have 
passed it with indifference she believed impossible. She 
was confident, therefore, that it was now in his possession. 
After attempting to speculate on the possible consequences 
of this misadventure, and coming to no satisfactory con- 
clusion, she determined to commit the matter entirely to 
God, and sought that repose which a good conscience was 
sure to render balmy and sweet. 

Fabiola, on parting with Agnes, retired to her apart- 
ment ; and after the usual services had been rendered to 
her by her other two servants and Euphrosyne, she dis- 
missed them with a g-entler manner than ever she had 
shown before. As soon as they had retired, she went to 
recline upon the couch where first we found her; when, to 
her disgust, she discovered lying- on it the style with which 
she had wounded Syra. She opened a chest, and threw it 
in with horror; nor did she ever again use any such weapon. 

She took up the volume which she had last laid down, 
and which had greatly amused her ; but it was quite insipid, 
and seemed most frivolous to her. She laid it down again, 
and gave free course to her thoughts on all that had hap- 

* A famous sorceress in Augustus's age. 
f The worship of interior Africa. 



CH. VIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 45 

pened. It struck her first what a wonderful child her 
cousin Ag-nes was, — how unselfish, how pure, how simple ; 
how sensible, too, and even wise ! She determined to he 
her protector, her elder sister in all thing's. She had ob- 
served, too, as well as her father, the frequent looks which 
Fulvius had fixed upon her ; not, indeed, those libertine 
looks which she herself had often borne with scorn, but 
designing', cunning - glances, such as she thoug'ht betrayed 
some scheme or art, of which Ag'nes might become the 
victim. She resolved to frustrate it, whatever it might be, 
and arrived at exactly the opposite conclusion to her father's 
about him. She made up her mind to prevent Fulvius 
having- any access to Ag-nes, at least at her house ; and 
even blamed herself for having- brought one so young into 
the strange company which often met at her father's table, 
especially as she now found that her motives for doing so 
had been decidedly selfish. It was nearly at the same 
moment that Fulvius, tossing on his couch, had come to 
the determination never again, if possible, to g-o inside 
Fabius's door, and to resist or elude every invitation from 
him. 

Fabiola had measured his character ; had caug-ht, with 
her penetrating eye, the affectation of his manner, and the 
cunning- of his looks ■ and could not help contrasting- him 
with the frank and generous Sebastian. " What a noble 
fellow that Sebastian is !" she said to herself. " How diffe- 
rent from all the other youths that come here. Never a 
foolish word escapes his lips, never an unkind look darts 
from his bright and cheerful eye. How' abstemious, as 
becomes a soldier, at the table ; how modest, as befits a 
hero, about his own strength and bold actions in war, which 
others speak so much about. Oh ! if he only felt towards me 
as others pretend to do — " She did not finish the sentence, 
but a deep melancholy seemed to steal over her whole soul. 

Then Syra's conversation, and all that had resulted 
from it, passed again through her mind ; it was painful to 
her, yet she could not help dwelling' on it ; and she felt as 
if that day were a crisis in her life. Her pride had been 
humbled by a slave, and her mind softened, she knew not 
how. Had her eyes been opened in that hour ; and had 



46 

she been able to look up above this world, she would have 
seen a soft cloud like incense, but tinged with a rich car- 
nation, rising from the bed-side of a kneeling- slave (prayer 
and willing sacrifice of life breathed upwards together), 
which, when it struck the crystal footstool of a mercy-seat 
in heaven, fell down again as a dew of gentlest grace upon 
her arid heart. 

She could not indeed see this ; yet it was no less true ; 
and wearied, at length she sought repose. But she too 
had a distressing dream. She saw a bright spot as in a 
delicious garden, richly illuminated by a light like noon- 
day, but inexpressibly soft; while all around was dark. 
Beautiful flowers formed the sward, plants covered with 
richest bloom grew festooned from tree to tree, on each of 
which glowed g'olden fruit. In the midst of this space she 
saw the poor blind girl, with her look of happiness on her 
cheerful countenance, seated on the ground ; while on one 
side, Agnes, with her sweetest simple looks, and on the 
other, Syra, with her quiet patient smile, hung over her 
and caressed her. Fabiola felt an irresistible desire to be 
with them ; it seemed to her that they were enjoying some 
felicity which she had never known or witnessed ; and she 
thought they even beckoned her to join them. She ran 
forward to do so, when to her horror she found a wide, and 
black, and deep ravine, at the bottom of which roared a 
torrent between herself and them. By degrees its waters 
rose, till they reached the upper margin of the dyke, and 
there flowed, though so deep, yet sparkling and brilliant, 
and most refreshing. Oh, for courage to plunge into this 
stream, through which aione the gorg'e could be crossed, 
and land in safety on the other side ! And still they 
beckoned, urging her on to try it. But as she was stand- 
ing' on the brink, clasping her hands in despair, Calpurnius 
seemed to emerge from the dark air around, with a thick 
heavy curtain stretched out, on which were worked all 
sorts of monstrous and hideous chimeras, most curiously 
running- into, and interwoven with, each other; and this 
dark veil grew and grew, till it shut out the beautiful 
vision from her sight. She felt disconsolate, till she seemed 
to see a bright genius (as she called him), in whose fea- 



CH. IX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 47 

tures she fancied she traced a spiritualised resemblance to 
Sebastian, and whom she had noticed standing sorrowful 
at a distance, now approach her, and, smiling on her, fan 
her fevered face with his gold and purple wing • when she 
lost her vision in a calm and refreshing sleep. 



CHAPTER IX. 

MEETINGS. 



Of all the Roman hills, the most distinctly traceable on 
every side is undoubtedly the Palatine. Augustus having* 
chosen it for his residence, successive emperors followed his 
example • but gradually transformed his modest residence 
into a palace, which covered the entire hill. ]N T ero, not 
satisfied with its dimensions, destroyed the neighbourhood 
by fire, and then extended the imperial residence to the 
neighbouring Esquiline; taking in the whole space now 
occupied between the two hills by the Coliseum. Vespa- 
sian threw down that "golden house," of which the magnifi- 
cent vaults remain, covered with beautiful paintings ; and 
built the amphitheatre just mentioned, and other edifices, 
with its materials. The entrance to the palace was made, 
soon after this period, from the Via Sacra, or Sacred Way, 
close to the arch of Titus. After passing through a vesti- 
bule, the visitor found himself in a magnificent court, the 
plan of Avhich can be distinctly traced. Turning from 
this, on the left side, he entered into an immense square 
space, arranged and consecrated to Adonis by Domitian, 
and planted with trees, shrubs, and flowers. 

Still keeping to the left, you would enter into sets of 
chambers, constructed by Alexander Severus in honour of 
his mother Mammaea, whose name they bore. They 
looked out opposite to the Coelian hill, just at the angle 
of it, which abuts upon the later triumphal arch of Con- 
stantine, and the fountain called the Meta Sudans* Here 

* " The sweating goal." It was an obelisk of brick (which yet 
remains), cased with marble, from the top of which issued water, 
and flowed down like a sheet of glass, all round it, into a basin on 
the ground. 



48 FABIOLAJ OR, 

was the apartment occupied by Sebastian as a tribune, or 
superior officer, of tlie imperial guard. It consisted of a 
few rooms, most modestly furnished, as became a. soldier 
and a Christian. His household was limited to a couple 
of freedmen, and a venerable matron, who had been his 
nurse, and loved him as a child. They were Christians, as 
were all the men in his cohort ; partly by conversion, but 
chiefly by care in recruiting new soldiers. 

It was a few evenings after the scenes described in 
the last chapter, that Sebastian, a couple of hours after 
dark, ascended the steps of the vestibide just described, in 
company with another youth, of whom we have already 
spoken. Pancratius admired and loved Sebastian with 
the sort of affection that an ardent young officer may be 
supposed to bear towards an older and gallant soldier, who 
receives him into his friendship. But it was not as to a 
soldier of Caesar, but as to a champion of Christ, that the 
civilian boy looked up to the young tribune, whose gene- 
rosity, noble-mindedness, and valour, were enshrouded in 
such a gentle, simple bearing, and were accompanied by 
such prudence and considerateness, as gave confidence and 
encouragement to all that dealt with him. And Sebastian 
loved Pancratius no less, on account of his single-hearted 
ardour, and the innocence and candour of his mind. But 
he well saw the dang'ers to which his youthful warmth and 
impetuosity might lead him; and he encouraged him to 
keep close to himself, that he might guide, and perhaps 
sometimes restrain, him. 

As they were entering the palace, that part of which 
Sebastian's cohort guarded, he said to his companion, 
" Every time that I enter here, it strikes me how kind an 
act of Divine Providence it was, to plant almost at the 
very gate of Caesar's palace, the arch which commemorates 
at once the downfall of the first great system that was 
antagonistic to Christianity, and the completion of the 
greatest prophecy of the Gospel, — the destruction of Je- 
rusalem by the Roman power.* I cannot but believe that 
another arch will one day arise to commemorate no less 

* The triumphal arch of Titus, on which are represented the 
spoils of the Temple. 



CH. IX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 49 

a victory, over the second enemy of our religion, the hea- 
then Eoman empire itself." 

" What ! do you contemplate the overthrow of this 
vast empire, as the means of establishing 1 Christianity?" 

" God forbid ! I would shed the last drop of my 
blood, as I shed my first, to maintain it. And depend 
upon it, when the empire is converted, it will not be by 
such gradual growth as we now witness, but by some 
means, so unhuman, so divine, as we shall never, in our 
most sanguine longings, forecast; but all will exclaim: 
' This is the change of the right hand of the Most High !'" 

" No doubt ; but your idea of a Christian triumphal 
arch supposes an earthly instrument ; where do you ima- 
gine this to lie?" 

" Why, Pancratius, my thoughts, I own, turn towards 
the family of one of the Augusti, as showing a slight germ 
of better thoughts : I mean, Constantius Chlorus." 

" But, Sebastian, how many of even our learned and 
good men will say, nay, do say, if you speak thus to them, 
that similar hopes were entertained in the reigns of Alex- 
ander, Gordian, or Aurelian; yet ended in disappointment. 
Why, they ask, should we not expect the same results now ?" 

" I know it too well, my dear Pancratius; and bitterly 
have I often deplored those dark views which damp our 
energies ; that lurking thought that vengeance is perpetual, 
and mercy temporary, that martyr's blood, and virgin's 
prayer have no power even to shorten times of visitation, 
and hasten hours of grace." 

By this time they had reached Sebastian's apartment, 
the principal room of which was lighted, and evidently pre- 
pared for some assembly. But opposite the door was a 
window open to the ground, and leading to a terrace that 
ran along that side of the building. The night looked 
so bright through it, that they both instinctively walked 
across the room, and stood upon the terrace. A lovely 
and splendid view presented itself to them. The moon 
was high in the heavens, swimming in them, as an Italian 
moon does ; a round, full globe, not a flat surface, bathed 
all round in its own refulgent atmosphere. It dimmed, in- 
deed, the stars near itself; but they seemed to have retired, 

E 



50 

in thicker and more brilliant clusters, into the distant cor- 
ners of the azure sky. It was just such an evening- as, 
years after, Monica and Aug-ustine enjoyed from a window 
at Ostia, as they discoursed of heavenly things. 

It is true that, below and around, all was beautiful and 
grand. The Coliseum, or Flavian amphitheatre, rose at 
one side, in all its completeness ; and the gentle murmur of 
the fountain, while its waters glistened in a silvery column, 
like the refluent sea-wave gliding - down a slanting- rock, 
came soothingly on the ear. On the other side, the 
lofty building called the Septizonium of Severus, in front, 
towering above the Ccelian, the sumptuous baths of Ca- 
racalla, reflected from their marble walls and stately pillars 
the radiance of the autumn moon. But all these massive 
monuments of earthly glory rose unheeded before the two 
Christian youths, as they stood silent ; the elder with his 
right arm round his youthful companion's neck, and resting 
on his shoulder. After a long pause,he took up the thread 
of his last discourse, and said, in a softer tone, " I was 
going to show you, when we stepped out here, the very 
spot just below our feet, where I have often fancied the tri- 
umphal arch, to which I have alluded, would stand.* But 
who can think of such paltry things below, with the splen- 
did vault above us, lighted up so brilliantly, as if on pur- 
pose to draw upwards our eyes and hearts ?" 

" True, Sebastian; and I have sometimes thought, that, 
if the under-side of that firmament up to which the eye of 
man, however wretched and sinful, may look, be so beau- 
tiful and bright, what must that upper-side be, down upon 
which the eye of boundless Glory deigns to glance! I 
imagine it to be like a richly-embroidered veil, through 
the texture of which a few points of golden thread may be 
allowed to pass ; and these only reach us. How trans- 
cendently royal must be that upper surface, on which treaa 
the lightsome feet of angels, and of the just made perfect!'' 

" A graceful thought, Pancratius, and no less true. 
It makes the veil, between us labouring here and the tri- 
umphal church above, thin and easily to be passed." 

* The arch of Constantine stands exactly under the spot where 
this scene is described. 



CH. IX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 51 

" And pardon me, Sebastian," said the youth, with the 
same look up to his friend, as a few evenings before had 
met his mother's inspired gaze, " pardon me if, while you 
wisely speculate upon a future arch to record the triumph 
of Christianity, I see already before me, built and open, 
the arch through which we, feeble as we are, may lead 
the Church speeddy to the triumph of glory, and ourselves 
to that of bliss." 

" Where, my dear boy, where do you mean?" 

Pancratius pointed steadUy with his hand towards the 
left, and said : " There, my noble Sebastian ; any of those 
open arches of the Flavian amphitheatre, which lead to 
its arena; over which, not denser than the outstretched 
canvas which shades our spectators, is that veil of which 
you spoke just now. But hark!" 

" That was a lion's roar from beneath the Ccelian !" 
exclaimed Sebastian, surprised. " Wild beasts must have 
arrived at the vivarium* of the amphitheatre ; for I know 
there were none there yesterday." 

" Yes, hark !" continued Pancratius, not noticing the 
interruption. " These are the trumpet-notes that summon 
us; that is the music that must accompany us to our 
triumph !" 

Both paused for a time, when Pancratius again broke 
the silence, saying - , " This puts me in mind of a matter on 
which I want to take your advice, my faithful counsellor ; 
will your company be soon arriving ?" 

" Not immediately; and they will drop in one by one; 
till they assemble, come into my chamber, where none will 
interrupt us." 

They walked along the terrace, and entered the last 
room of the suite. It was at the corner of the hill, exactly 
opposite the fountain ; and was lighted only by the rays of 
the moon, streaming through the open window on that 
side. The soldier stood near this, and Pancratius sat upon 
his small military couch. 

" What is this great affair, Pancratius," said the officer, 
smUing, " upon which you wish to have my sage opinion?" 

* The place where live beasts were kept for the shows. 



52 



fabiola; or, 



" Quite a trifle, I dare say," replied the youth, bash- 
fully, "for a bold and generous man like you; but an im- 
portant one to an unskilful and weak boy like me." 

" A good and virtuous one, I doubt not ; do let me hear 
it ; and I promise you every assistance." 

" Well, then, Sebastian — now don't think me foolish," 
proceeded Pancratius, hesitating and blushing at every 
word. " You are aware I have a quantity of useless plate 
at home — mere lumber, you know, in our plain way of 
living; and my dear mother, for any thing I can say, 
won't wear the lots of old-fashioned trinkets, which are 
lying locked up, and of no use to any body. I have no 
one to whom all this should descend. I am, and shall be, 
the last of my race. You have often told me, who in that 
case are a Christian's natural heirs, — the widow and the 
fatherless, the helpless and the indigent. Why should 
these wait my death, to have what by reversion is theirs ? 
And if a persecution is coming, why run the risk of confis- 
cation seizing them, or of plundering lictors stealing them, 
whenever our lives are wanted, to the utter loss of our 



rightful heirs V 



Pancratius," said Sebastinn, " I have listened with- 
out offering a remark to your noble suggestion. I wished 
you to have all the merit of uttering it yourself. Now, 
hist tell me, what makes you doubt or hesitate about what 
I know you wish to do ?" 

" Why, to tell the truth, I feared it might be highly 
presumptuous and impertinent in one of my ag'e to offer to 
do what people would be sure to imagine was something 
grand or generous; while I assure you, dear Sebastian, it 
is no such thing. For I shall not miss these things a bit ; 
they are of no value to me whatever. But they will be to 
the poor, especially in the hard times coming." 

" Of course Lucina consents?" 

" Oh, no fear about that ! I would not touch a grain 
of gold-dust without her even wishing it. But why I re- 
quire your assistance is principally this. I should never 
be able to stand its being known that I presumed to do 
any thing considered out of the way, especially in a boy. 
You understand me 1 So I want you, and beg of you, to 



CH. IX.] THE CHURCH OP THE CATACOMBS. 53 

get the distribution made at some other house; and as 
from a — say from one who needs much the prayers of the 
faithful, especially the poor, and desires to remain un- 
known." 

" I will serve you with delight, my good and truly 
noble boy ! Hush ! did you not hear the Lady Fabiola's 
name just mentioned ? There again, and with an epithet 
expressive of no good will." 

Pancratius approached the window; two voices were 
conversing together so close under them that the cornice 
between prevented their seeing the speakers, evidently a 
woman and a man. After a few minutes they walked out 
into the moonlight, almost as bright as day. 

" I know that Moorish woman," said Sebastian ; " it is 
Fabiola's black slave, Afra." 

" And the man," added Pancratius, " is my late school- 
fellow, Corvinus." 

They considered it their duty to catch, if possible, the 
thread of what seemed a plot; but, as the speakers walked 
up and down, they could only make out a sentence here 
and there. We will not, however, confine ourselves to 
these parts, but give the entire dialogue. Only, a word 
first about the interlocutors. 

Of the slave we know enough for the present. Corvinus 
was son, as we have said, to Tertullus, originally prefect of 
the Prsetorium. This office, unknown in the republic, and of 
imperial creation, had, from the reign of Tiberius, gradually 
absorbed almost all civil as well as military power ; and he 
who held it often discharged the duties of chief criminal 
judge in Rome. It required no little strength of nerve to 
occupy this post to the satisfaction of despotic and unspar- 
ing masters. To sit all day in a tribunal, surrounded with 
hideous implements of torture, unmoved by the moans or 
the shrieks of old men, youths, or women, on whom they were 
tried ; to direct a cool interrogatory to one stretched upon 
the rack, and quivering in agony on one side, while the 
last sentence of beating to death with bullet-laden scourges 
was being executed on the other; to sleep calmly after 
such scenes, and rise with appetite for their repetition, was 
not an occupation to which every member of the bar could 



54 

be supposed to aspire. Tertullus had been brought from 
Sicily to fill the office, not because he was a cruel, but be- 
cause he was a cold-hearted, man, not susceptible of pity 
or partiality. His tribunal, however, was Corvinus's early 
school ; he could sit, while quite a boy, for hours at his 
father's feet, thoroughly enjoying' the cruel spectacles be- 
fore him, and angTy when any one got off. He grew up 
sottish, coarse, and brutal ; and not yet arrived at man's 
estate, his bloated and freckled countenance and blear eyes, 
one of which was half closed, announced him to be already 
a dissolute and dissipated character. Without taste for 
any thing refined, or ability for any learning, he tinited in 
himself a certain amount of animal courage and strength, 
and a considerable measure of low cunning. He had 
never experienced in himself a g-enerous feeling, and he 
had never curbed an evil passion. No one had ever of- 
fended him, whom he did not hate, and pursue with ven- 
geance. Two, above all, he had sworn never to forgive — 
the schoolmaster who had often chastised him for his sulky 
idleness, and the schoolfellow who had blessed him for his 
brutal contumely. Justice and mercy, good and evil done 
to him, were equally odious to him. 

Tertullus had no fortune to give him, and he seemed 
to have little genius to make one. To become possessed of 
one, however, was all-important to his mind ; for wealth, 
as the means of gratifying- his desires, was synonymous 
with him to supreme felicity. A rich heiress, or rather her 
dower, seemed the simplest object at which to aim. Too 
awkward, shy, and stupid to make himself a way in so- 
ciety, he sought other means, more kindred to his mind, for 
the attainment of his ambitious or avaricious desires. What 
these means were, his conversation with the black slave will 
best explain. 

" I have come to meet you at the Meta Sudans again, 
for the fourth time, at this inconvenient hour. What news 
have you for me ?" 

" None, except that after to-morrow my mistress starts 
for her villa at Cajeta,* and of course I go with her. I 

* Gaeta. 



CH. IX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 55 

shall want more money to carry on my operations in your 
favour." 

" More still ? You have had all I have received from 
my father for months." 

" Why, do you know what Fahiola is ?" 

" Yes, to be sure, the richest match in Rome." 

" The haughty and cold-hearted Fabiola is not so easily 
to he won." 

" But yet you promised me that your charms and 
potions would secure me her acceptance, or at any rate her 
fortune. What expense can these thing's cause ?" 

"Very great indeed. The most precious ingredients 
are requisite, and must be paid for. And do you think I 
will go out at such an hour as this amidst the tombs of the 
Appian way, to gather my simples, without being properly 
rewarded ? But how do you mean to second my efforts ? 
I have told you this would hasten their success." 

" And how can I ? You know I am not cut out by 
nature, or fitted by accomplishments, to make much im- 
pression on any one's affections. I would rather trust to 
the power of your black art." 

" Then let me give you one piece of advice ; if you 
have no grace or gift by which you can gain Fabiola's 
heart " 

" Fortune, you mean." 

" They cannot be separated ; — depend upon it, there is 
one thing which you may bring with you that is irresistible." 

"What is that?" 

"Gold." 

" And where am I to get it ? it is that I seek." 

The black slave smiled maliciously, and said : 

" Why cannot you get it as Fulvius does ?" 

" How does he get it ?" 

" By blood !" 

" How do you know it 1" 

" I have made acquaintance with an old attendant that 
he has, who, if not as dark as I am in skin, fully makes up 
for it in his heart. His language and mine are sufficiently 
allied for us to be able to converse. He has asked me 
many questions about poisons, and pretended he would 



56 

purchase my liberty, and take me back home as his wife ; 
but I have something - better than that in prospect, I trust. 
However, I got all that I wanted out from him." 

" And what was that ?" 

" Why, that Fulvius had discovered a great conspiracy 
against Dioclesian ; and from the wink of the old man's 
awful eye, I understood he had hatched it first ; and he 
has been sent with strong recommendations to Rome to 
be employed in the same line." 

" But I have no ability either to make or to discover 
conspiracies, though I may have to punish them." 

" One way, however, is easy." 

"What is that?" 

" In my country there are large birds, which you may 
attempt in vain to run down with the fleetest horses ; but 
which, if you look about for them quietly, are the first to 
betray themselves, for they only hide their heads." 

" What do you wish to represent by this ?" 

" The Christians. Is there not going to be a persecu- 
tion of them soon ?" 

" Yes, and a most fierce one ; such as has never been 
before." 

" Then follow my advice. Do not tire yourself with 
hunting them down, and catching - , after all, but mean prey ; 
keep your eyes open and look about for one or two good 
fat ones, half trying - to conceal themselves ; pounce upon 
them, get a g - ood share of their confiscation, and come 
with one good handful to get two in return." 

" Thank you, thank you ; I understand you. You are 
not fond of these Christians, then ?" 

" Fond of them ? I hate the entire race. The spirits 
which I worship are the deadly enemies of their very 
name." And she grinned horrible a ghastly smile as she 
proceeded : " I suspect one of my fellow-servants is one. 
Oh, how I detest her !" 

" What makes you think it?" 

" In the first place, she would not tell a lie for any 
thing, and gets us all into dreadful scrapes by her absurd 
truthfulness." 

" Good ! what next ?" 



CH. X J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 57 

" Then she cares not for money or gifts ; and so pre- 
vents our having them offered." 

" Better !" 

" And moreover she is — " the last word died in the 
ear of Corvinus, who replied : 

" Well, indeed, I have to-day heen out of the gate to 
meet a caravan of your countryfolk coining in; but you 
beat them all !" 

" Indeed !" exclaimed Afra with delig'ht, " who were 
they ?" 

" Simply Africans,"* replied Corvinus, with a laug-h ; 
" lions, panthers, leopards." 

" Wretch ! do you insult me thus V 

" Come, come, be pacified. They are brought expressly 
to rid you of your hateful Christians. Let us part friends. 
Here is your money. But let it be the last ; and let me 
know when the philtres begin to work. I will not forg'et 
your hint about Christian money. It is quite to my taste." 

As he departed by the Sacred Way, she pretended to go 
along the Carinse, the street between the Palatine and the 
Coelian mounts ; then turned back, and looking after him, 
exclaimed : " Fool ! to think that I am going to fry expe- 
riments for you on a person of Fabiola's character !" 

She followed him at a distance ; but as Sebastian, to 
his amazement, thought, turned into the vestibule of the 
palace. He determined at once to put Fabiola on her 
guard against this new plot ; but this coidd not be done 
till her return from the country. 



CHAPTER X. 

OTHER MEETINGS. 



When the two youths returned to the room by which 
they had entered the apartment, they found the expected 

* The generic name for the wild beasts of that continent, as op- 
posed to bears and others from the north. 



58 

company assembled. A frugal repast was laid upon the 
table, principally as a blind to any intruder who might 
happen unexpectedly to enter. The assembly was large 
and varied, containing clergy and laity, men and women. 
The purpose of the meeting" was to concert proper mea- 
sures, in consequence of something which had lately oc- 
curred in the palace. This we must briefly explain. 

Sebastian, enjoying- the unbounded confidence of the 
emperor, employed all his influence in propagating the 
Christian faith within the palace. Numerous conversions 
had gradually been made ; but shortly before this period 
there had been a wholesale one effected, the particulars of 
which are recorded in the g-enuine Acts of this glorious sol- 
dier. In virtue of former laws, many Christians were 
seized and brought to trial, which often ended in death. 
Two brothers, Marcus and Marcellianus, had been so ac- 
cused, and were expecting execution ; when their friends, 
admitted to see them, implored them with tears to save 
their lives by apostasy. They seemed to waver; they 
promised to deliberate. Sebastian heard of this, and 
rushed to save them. He was too well known to be re- 
fused admittance, and he entered into their gloomy prison 
like an angel of light. It consisted of a strong room in 
*he house of the magistrate to whose care they had been 
intrusted. The place of confinement was generally left to 
that officer ; and here Tranquillinus, the father of the two 
youths, had obtained a respite for them of thirty days to 
try to shake their constancy; and, to second his efforts, 
Nicostratus, the magistrate, had placed them in custody in 
his own house. Sebastian's was a bold and perilous office. 
Besides the two Christian captives, there were gathered 
in the place sixteen heathen prisoners ; there were the 
parents of the unfortunate youths weeping over them, and 
caressing- them, to allure them from their threatened doom; 
there was the gaoler, Claudius, and there was the magis- 
trate, Nicostratus, with his wife Zoe, drawn thither by the 
compassionate wish of seeing the youths snatched from 
their fate. Could Sebastian hope, that of this crowd not 
one would be found, whom a sense of official duty, or a 
hope of pardon, or hatred of Christianity, might impel to 



CH. X.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 59 

betray him, if he avowed himself a Christian ? And did 
he not know that such a betrayal involved his death ? 

He knew it well ; but what cared he ? If three vic- 
tims would thus be offered to God instead of two, so much 
the better; all that he dreaded was, that there should 
be none. The room was a banqueting-hall but seldom 
opened in the day, and consequently requiring very little 
light ; what it had, entered only, as in the Pantheon, by 
an opening- in the roof; and Sebastian, anxious to be seen 
by all, stood in the ray which now darted through it, 
strong and brilliant where it beat, but leaving the rest of 
the apartment almost dark. It broke against the gold and 
jewels of his rich tribune's armour, and, as he moved, scat- 
tered itself in sparks of brilliant hues into the darkest re- 
cesses of that gloom ; while it beamed with serene steadiness 
upon his uncovered head, and displayed his noble features, 
softened by an emotion of tender grief, as he looked upon 
the two vacillating - confessors. It was some moments 
before he could give vent in words to the violence of his 
grief, till at length it broke forth in impassioned tones. 

" Holy and venerable brothers," he exclaimed, " who 
have borne witness to Christ; who are imprisoned for Him; 
whose limbs are marked by chains worn for His sake ; 
who have tasted torments with Him, — I ought to fall at 
your feet and do you homage, and ask your prayers ; in- 
stead of standing before you as your exhorter, still less as 
your reprover. Can this be true which I have heard, that 
while angels were putting the last flower to your crowns, 
you have bid them pause, and even thought of telling 
them to unweave them, and scatter their blossoms to the 
winds? Can I believe that you who have already your 
feet on the threshold of paradise, are thinking- of drawing- 
them back, to tread once more the valley of exile and of 
tears?" 

The two youths hung down their heads and wept in 
humble confession of their weakness. Sebastian pro- 
ceeded : 

" You cannot meet the eye of a poor soldier like me, 
the least of Christ's servants : how then will you stand 
the angry glance of the Lord whom you are about to 



60 

deny before men (but cannot in your hearts deny), on that 
terrible day, when He, in return, will deny you before His 
angels ? When, instead of standing manfully before Him, 
like good and faithful servants, as to-morrow ye might 
have done, you shall have to come into His presence after 
having crawled through a few more years of infamy, dis- 
owned by the Church, despised by its enemies, and, what 
is worse, gnawed by an undying worm, and victims of a 
sleepless remorse ?" 

" Cease ; oh, in pity cease, young man, whoever thou 
art," exclaimed Tranquillinus, the father of the youths. 
" Speak not thus severely to my sons : it was, I assure 
thee, to their mother's tears and to my entreaties that 
they had begun to yield, and not to the tortures which 
they have endured with such fortitude. Why should they 
leave their wretched parents to misery and sorrow ? does 
thy religion command this, and dost thou call it holy?" 

" Wait in patience, my good old man," said Sebastian, 
with the kindest look and accent, " and let me speak first 
with thy sons. They know what I mean, which thou 
canst not yet; but with God's grace thou too shalt soon. 
Your father, indeed, is right in saying, that for his sake 
and your mother's you have been deliberating whether 
you should not prefer them to Him who told you, ' He 
that loveth father or mother more than Me, is not worthy 
of Me.' You cannot hope to purchase for these your aged 
jjctrents eternal life by your own loss of it. Will you make 
them Christians by abandoning Christianity? will you 
make them soldiers of the Cross by deserting its standard? 
will you teach them that its doctrines are more precious 
than life, by preferring life to them ? Do you want to gain 
for them, not the mortal life of the perishable body, but 
the eternal life of the soul ? then hasten yourselves to its 
acquisition ; throw down at the feet of your Saviour the 
crowns you will receive, and entreat for your parents' sal- 
vation." 

" Enough, enough, Sebastian, we are resolved," cried 
out together both the brothers. 

" Claudius," said one, " put on me again the chains 
you have taken off." 



CH. X.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 61 

" Nicostratus," added the other, " give orders for the 
sentence to be carried out." 

Yet neither Claudius nor Nicostratus moved. 

" Farewell, dear father ; adieu, dearest mother," they 
in turns said, embracing- their parents. 

" No," replied the father, " we part no more. Nicos- 
tratus, go tell Chromatius that I am from this moment a 
Christian with my sons ; I will die with them for a religion 
which can make heroes thus of boys." "And I," con 
tinned the mother, " will not be separated from my hus- 
band and children." 

The scene which followed baffles description. All were 
moved ; all wept ; the prisoners joined in the tumidt of 
these new affections; and Sebastian saw himself sur- 
rounded by a group of men and women smitten by gTace, 
softened by its influences, and subdued by its power ; yet 
all was lost if one remained behind. He saw the danger, 
not to himself, but to the Church, if a sudden discovery 
were made, and to those souls fluttering - upon the con- 
fines of life. Some hung- upon his arms ; some clasped his 
knees ; some kissed his feet, as though he had been a 
spirit of peace, such as visited Peter in his dungeon at 
Jerusalem. 

Two alone had expressed no thought. Nicostratus 
was indeed moved, but by no means conquered. His 
feeling-s were agitated, but his convictions unshaken. His 
wife, Zoe, knelt before Sebastian with a beseeching- look 
and outstretched arms, but she spoke not a word. 

" Come, Sebastian," said the keeper of the records, for 
such was Nicostratus' s office ; " it is time for thee to de- 
part. I cannot but admire the sincerity of belief, and the 
s-enerosity of heart, which can make thee act as thou hast 
Hone, and which impel these young men to death; but 
my duty is imperative, and must overweigh my private 
feelings." 

" And dost not thou believe with the rest?" 

" No, Sebastian, I yield not so easily ; I must have 
stronger evidences than even thy virtue." 

" Oh, speak to him then, thou !" said Sebastian to 
Zoe ; " speak, faithful wife ; speak to thy husband's heart; 



62 

for I am mistaken indeed, if those looks of thine tell me 
not that thou at least helievest." 

Zoe' covered her face with her hands, and hurst into a 
passion of tears. 

" Thou hast touched her to the quick, Sebastian," said 
her husband ; " knowest thou not that she is dumb ?" 

" I knew it not, noble Nicostratus ; for when last I saw 
her in Asia she could speak." 

" For six years," replied the other, with a faltering 
voice, " her once eloquent tongue has been paralysed, and 
she has not uttered a single word." 

Sebastian was silent for a moment ; then suddenly he 
threw out his arms, and stretched them forth, as the Chris- 
tians always did in prayer, and raised his eyes to heaven ; 
then burst forth in these words : 

" God ! Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the be- 
ginning of this work is Thine ; let its accomplishment be 
Thine alone. Put forth Thy power, for it is needed ; in- 
trust it for once to the weakest and poorest of instruments. 
Let me, thoug-h most unworthy, so wield the sword of Thy 
victorious Cross, as that the spirits of darkness may fly 
before it, and Thy salvation may embrace us all ! Zoe, 
look up once more to me." 

All were hushed in silence, when Sebastian, after a 
moment's silent prayer, with his right hand made over 
her mouth the sign of the cross, saying 1 : " Zoe, speak ; 
dost thou believe ? " 

" I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ," she replied, in a 
clear and firm voice, and fell upon Sebastian's feet. 

It was almost a shriek that Nicostratus uttered, as he 
threw himself on his knees, and bathed Sebastian's right 
hand with tears. 

The victory was complete. Every one was gained; 
and immediate steps were taken to prevent discovery. The 

Eerson responsible for the prisoners could take them where 
e washed; and Nicostratus transferred them all, with 
Tranquillinus and his wife, to the full liberty of his house. 
Sebastian lost no time in putting them under the care of 
the holy priest Polycarp, of the title of St. Pastor. It was 
a case so peculiar, and requiring such concealment, and the 



CH. X.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 63 

times were so threatening, and all new irritations had so 
much to be avoided, that the instruction was hurried, and 
continued nig'ht and day; so that baptism was quickly 
administered. 

The new Christian flock was encouraged and consoled 
by a fresh wonder. Tranquillinus, who was suffering- 
severely from the gout, was restored to instant and com- 
plete health by baptism. Chromatius was the prefect of 
the city, to whom Nicostratus was liable for his prisoners; 
and this officer could not long conceal from him what had 
happened. It was indeed a matter of life or death to them 
all ; but, strengthened now by faith, they were prepared 
for either. Chromatius was a man of upright character, 
and not fond of persecution; and listened with interest to 
the account of what had occurred. But when he heard of 
Tranquillinus's cure, he was greatly struck. He was him- 
self a victim to the same disease, and suffered agonies of 
pain. " If," he said, " what you relate be true, and if I 
can have personal experience of this healing power, I cer- 
tainly will not resist its evidence." 

Sebastian was sent for. To have administered baptism 
without faith preceding, as an experiment of its healing 
virtue, would have been a superstition. Sebastian took 
another course, which will be later described, and Chro- 
matius completely recovered. He received baptism soon 
after, with his son Tibertius. 

It was clearly impossible for him to continue in his 
office, and he had accordingly resigned it to the emperor. 
Tertullus, the father of the hopeful Corvinus, and prefect 
of the Praetorium, had been named his successor ; so the 
reader will perceive that the events, just related from the 
Acts of St. Sebastian, had occurred a little before our 
narrative begins; for in an early chapter, we spoke of 
Corvinus's father as already prefect of the city. 

Let us now come down again to the evening, in which 
Sebastian and Pancratius met most of the persons above 
enumerated in the officer's chamber. Many of them re- 
sided in, or about, the palace ; and besides them were 
present Castulus, who held a high situation at court,* and 
* It is not mentioned what it precisely was. 



64: fabiola; or, 

Lis wife Irene. Several previous meetings had been held, 
to decide upon some plan for securing the completer in- 
struction of the converts, and for withdrawing from obser- 
vation so many persons, whose change of life and retirement 
from office would excite wonder and inquiry. Sebastian 
had obtained permission from the emperor for Chromatius 
to retire to a country-house in Campania ; and it had been 
arranged that a considerable number of the neophytes 
should join him there, and, forming one household, should 
go on with religious instruction, and unite in common 
offices of piety. The season was come when every body 
retired to the country, and the emperor himself was going 
to the coast of Naples, and thence would take a journey 
in southern Italy. It was therefore a favourable moment 
for carrying out the preconcerted plan. Indeed the Pope, 
we are told, on the Sunday following this conversion, cele- 
brated the divine mysteries in the house of Nicostratus, 
and proposed this withdrawal from the city. 

At this meeting all details were arranged; different 
parties were to start, in the course of the following days, 
by various roads — some direct by the Appian, some along 
the Latin, others round by Tibur and a mountain road, 
through Arpinum ; but all were to meet at the villa, not 
far from Capua. Through the whole discussion of these 
somewhat tedious arrangements, Torquatus, one of the 
former prisoners, converted by Sebastian's visit, showed 
himself forward, impatient, and impetuous. He found fault 
with every plan, seemed discontented with the directions 
given him, spoke almost contemptuously of this flight from 
danger, as he called it ; and boasted that, for his part, he 
was ready to go into the Forum on the morrow, and over- 
throw any altar, or confront any judge, as a Christian. 
Every thing was said and done to soothe, and even to cool 
him; and it was felt to be most important, that he should 
be taken with the rest into the country. He insisted, how- 
ever, upon going his own way. 

Only one more point remained to be decided : it was, 
who should head the little colony, and direct it operations. 
Here was renewed a contest of love between the holy 
priest Polycarp and Sebastian ; each wishing to remain in 



CH. X.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 65 

Rome, and have tlie first chance of martyrdom. But now 
the difference was cut short by a letter brought in, from 
the Pope, addressed to his " Beloved son Poly carp, priest 
of the title of St. Pastor," in which he commanded him 
to accompany the converts, and leave Sebastian to the 
arduous duty of encouraging' confessors, and protecting 
Christians in Rome. To hear was to obey ; and the meet- 
ing broke up with a prayer of thanksgiving-. 

Sebastian, after bidding affectionate farewell to his 
friends, insisted upon accompanying Pancratius home. As 
they were leaving the room, the latter remarked, " Sebas- 
tian, I do not like that Torquatus. I fear he will give us 
trouble." 

" To tell the truth," answered the soldier, " I would 
rather he were different; but we must remember that he 
is a neoph} r te, and will improve in time, and by grace." 

As they passed into the entrance-court of the palace, 
they heard a Babel of uncouth sounds, with coarse laughter 
and occasional yells, proceeding from the adjoining' yard, 
in which were the quarters of the Mauritanian archers. A 
fire seemed to be blazing in the midst of it, for the smoke 
and sparks rose above the surrounding porticoes. 

Sebastian accosted the sentinel in the court where they 
were, and asked : " Friend, what is going on there among 
our neighbours ?" 

" The black slave," he replied, " who is their priestess, 
and who is betrothed to their captain, if she can purchase 
her freedom, has come in for some midnight rites, and this 
horrid turmoil takes place every time she comes." 

" Indeed ! " said Pancratius, " and can you tell me 
what is the religion these Africans follow ?" 

" I do not know, sir," replied the legionary, " unless 
they be what are called Christians." 

" What makes you think so ? " 

" Why, I have heard that the Christians meet by 
night, and sing detestable songs, and commit all sorts of 
crimes; and cook and eat the flesh of a child murdered 
for the purpose* — -just what might seem to be going on 
here." 

* These were the popular ideas of Christian worship. 
F 



ec 

" Good night, comrade." said Sebastian ; and then 
exclaimed, as they were i- suing from the vestibule, " Is it 
not strange, Pancratius, that, in spite of all our efforts, 
we who are conscious that we worship only the One 
living' God in spirit and truth, who know what care we 
take to keep ourselves undefiled by sin, and who woidd 
die rather than speak an unclean word, should yet, after 
300 years, he confounded by the people with the followers 
of the most degraded superstitions, aud have our worship 
ranked with the very idolatry, which above all things we 
abhor ' ' How long, Lord ! how long.''" 

" So long,"' said Pancratius, pausing - on the steps otit- 
side the vestibide, and looking at the now-declining moon, 
" so long as we shall continue to walk in this pale light, 
and until the Sun of Justice shall rise xipon our country in 
His beauty, and enrich it with His splendoiu". Sebastian, 
tell me, whence do you best like to see the sun rise .'"' 

" The most lovely sunrise I have ever seen," replied 
the soldier, as if humoiu'ing his companion's fanciful ques- 
tion, "was from the top ot the Latial mountain,* by the 
temple of Jupiter. The sun rose behind the mountain, and 
projected its huge shadow like a pyramid OTer the plain, 
and far upon the sea; then, as it rose higher, this lessened 
and withdrew ; and every moment some new object caught 
the light, first the galleys and skiffs upon the water, then 
the shore with its dancing waves ; and by degrees one 
white edifice after the other sparkled in the fresh beams, 
till at last majestic Rome itself, with its towering pin- 
nacles, basked iu the effulgence of day. It was a glorious 
sight, indeed; such as could not have been witnessed or 
imagined by those below." 

■• Just what I should have expected, Sebastian." ob- 
served Pancratius; " and so will it he. when that more bril- 
liant sun rises fully upon this benighted country. How 
beautiful will it then be to behold the shades retiring, and 
each moment one and another of the charms, as yet con- 
cealed, of our holy faith and worship starting into light, 
till the imperial city itself shines forth a holy type of 
the city of God. Will they who live in those times see 
* Now Monte Cavo. above Albano. 



CH. X.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 67 

these beauties, and worthily value them? Or, will they 
look only at the narrow space around them, and hold 
their hands before their eyes, to shade them from the 
sudden glare? I know not, dear Sebastian, but I hope 
that you and I will look down upon that grand spectacle, 
from where alone it can be duly appreciated, from a moun- 
tain higher than Jupiter's, be he Alban or be he Olympian, 
— dwelling on that holy mount, whereon stands the Lamb, 
from whose feet flow the streams of life."* 

They continued their walk in silence through the bril- 
liantly-lighted streets;! and when they had reached Lucina's 
house, and had affectionately bid one another good-night, 
Pancratius seemed to hesitate a. moment, and then said : 

" Sebastian, you said something this evening, which I 
should much like to have explained." 

"What was it?" 

" When you were contending with Polycarp, about 
going into Campania, or remaining in Rome, you promised 
that if you stayed you would be most cautious, and not 
expose yourself to unnecessary risks ; then you added, 
that there was one purpose in your mind which would 
effectually restrain you; but that when that was accom- 
plished, you would find it difficult to check your longing 
ardour to give your life for Christ." 

"And why, Pancratius, do you desire so much to 
know this foolish thought of mine ?■" 

" Because I own I am really curious to learn what 
can be the object, high enough to check in you the aspira- 
tion, after what I know you consider to be the very highest 
of a Christian's aim." 

" I am sorry, my dear boy, that it is not in my power 
to tell you now. But you shall know it sometime." 

" Do you promise me ?" 

" Yes, most solemnly. God bless you !" 

* " Vidi supra montem Agnum stantem, de sub cujus pede fons 
vivus emanat." — Office of St. Clement. 

f Ammianus Marcellinus tells us that, at the decline "of the 
empire, the streets at night were lighted so as to rival day. " Et 
hsec confidenter agebat (Gallus) ubi pernoctantium luminum clari- 
tudo dierum solet imitari fulgorem." Lib. xiv. c. 1. 



68 



CHAPTER XL 

A TALK WITH THE READER. 

We will take advantage of the holiday which Rome is 
enjoying, sending out its inhabitants to the neighbouring 
hills, or to the whole line of sea-coast from Genoa to 
Psestum, for amusement on land and water : and, in a 
merely didactic way, endeavour to communicate to our 
reader some information, which may throw light on what 
we have already written, and prepare him for what will 
follow. 

From the very compressed form in which the early 
history of the Church is g-enerally studied, and from the 
unchronological arrangement of the saints' biographies, as 
we usually read them, we may easily be led to an erroneous 
idea of the state of our first Christian ancestors. This may 
happen in two different ways. 

"We may come to imagine, that during the first three 
centuries the Church was suffering unrespited, under 
active persecution ; that the faithful worshipped in fear 
and trembling, and almost lived, in the catacombs; that 
bare existence, with scarcely an opportunity for outward 
development or inward organisation, none for splendour, 
was all that religion could enjoy • that, in fine, it was a 
period of conflict and of tribulation, without an interval of 
peace or consolation. On the other hand, we may suppose, 
that those three centuries were divided into epochs by ten 
distinct persecutions, some of longer and some of shorter 
duration, but definitely separated from one another by 
breathing times of complete rest. 

Either of these views is erroneous ; and we desire to 
state more accurately the real condition of the Christian 
Church, under the various circumstances of that most preg- 
nant portion of her history. 

When once persecution had broken loose upon the 
Church, it may be said never entirely to have relaxed its 
hold, till her final pacification under Constantine. An edict 
of persecution once issued by an emperor was seldom re- 



CH. XI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 69 

called ; and though the rigour of its enforcement might 
gradually relax or cease ; through the accession of a milder 
ruler, still it never hecame completely a dead letter, hut 
was a dangerous weapon in the hands of a cruel or higoted 
governor of a city or province. Hence, in the intervals 
between the greater general persecutions, ordered by a new 
decree, we find many martyrs, who owed their crowns 
either to popular fury, or to the hatred of Christianity in 
local riders. Hence also we read of a bitter persecution 
being carried on in one part of the empire, while other 
portions enjoyed complete peace. 

Perhaps a few examples of the various phases of per- 
secution will illustrate the real relations of the primitive 
Church with the State, better than mere description ; and 
the more learned reader can pass over this digression, or 
must have the patience to hear repeated, what he is so fa- 
miliar with, that it will seem commonplace. 

Trajan was by no means one of the cruel emperors ; on 
the contrary, he was habitually just and merciful. Yet, 
thoug'h he published no new edicts against the Christians, 
many noble martyrs — amongst them St. Ignatius, bishop of 
Antioch, at Rome, and St. Simeon at Jerusalem — glorified 
their Lord in his reign. Indeed, when Pliny the younger 
consulted him on the manner in which he should deal with 
Christians, who might be brought before him as governor 
of Bithynia, the emperor gave him a rule which exhibits 
the lowest standard of justice : that they were not to be 
sought out; but if accused, they were to be punished. 
Adrian, who issued no decree of persecution, gave a similar 
reply to a similar question from Serenius Granianus, pro- 
consul of Asia. And under him, too, and even by his own 
orders, cruel martyrdom was suffered by the intrepid Sym- 
phorosa and her seven sons at Tibur, or Tivoli. A beau- 
tiful inscription found in the catacombs mentions Marius, a 
young' officer, who shed his blood for Christ under this em- 
peror.* Indeed, St. Justin Martyr, the great apologist of 
Christianity, informs us that he owed his conversion to the 
constancy of the martyrs under this emperor. 

In like manner, before the Emperor Septimus Severus 
* Roma Subterr. 1. iii. c. 22. 



70 

had published his persecuting edicts, many Christians had 
suffered torments and death. Such were the celebrated 
martyrs of Scillita in Africa, and SS. Perpetua and Felici- 
tas, with their companions; the Acts of whose martyrdom, 
containing the diary of the first noble lady, twenty years 
of ag - e, brought down by herself to the eve of her death, 
form one of the most touching-, and exquisitely beautiful, 
documents preserved to us from the ancient Church. 

From these historical facts it will be evident, that while, 
there was from time to time a more active, severe, and general 
persecution of the Christian name all through the empire, 
there were partial and local cessations, and sometimes even 
a general suspension, of its rigour. An occurrence of this 
sort has secured for us most interesting information, con- 
nected with our subject. When the persecution of Severus 
had relaxed in other parts, it happened that Scapula, pro- 
consul of Africa, prolonged it in his province with unre- 
lenting cruelty. He had condemned, among- others, Mavi- 
lus of Adrumetum to be devoured by beasts, when he was 
seized with a severe illness. Tertullian, the oldest Chris- 
tian Latin writer, addressed a letter to him, in which he 
bids him take warning from this visitation, and repent 
of his crimes ; reminding him of many judgments which 
had befallen cruel judges of the Christians, in various parts 
of the world. • Yet such was the charity of those holy 
men, that he tells him they were offering up earnest 
prayers for their enemy's recovery ! 

He then goes on to inform him, that he may very well 
fulfil his duties without practising cruelty, by acting- as 
other magistrates had done. For instance, Cincius Severus 
suggested to the accused the answers they should make, to 
be acquitted. Vespronhis Candidus dismissed a Christian, 
on the ground that his condemnation woidd encourage 
tumults. Asper, seeing one ready to yield upon the appli- 
cation of slight torments, would not press him further; 
and expressed regret that such a case should have been 
brought before him. Pudens, on reading an act of accu- 
sation, declared the title informal, because calumnious, and 
tore it up. 

We thus see how much might depend upon the tein- 



CH. XI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 71 

per, and perhaps the tendencies, of governors and judges, 
in the enforcing' even of imperial edicts of persecution. 
And St. Ambrose tells us that some governors boasted 
that they had brought back from their provinces their 
swords unstained with blood ('mementos enses). 

We can also easily understand how, at any particular 
time, a savage persecution might rage in Gaul, or Africa, or 
Asia, while the main part of the Church was enjoying- peace. 
But Rome was undoubtedly the place most subject to fre- 
quent outbreaks of the hostile spirit; so that it might be 
considered as the privilege of its pontiffs, during- the first 
three centuries, to bear the witness of blood to the faith 
which they taught. To be elected Pope was equivalent to 
being- promoted to martyrdom. 

At the period of our narrative, the Church was in one 
of those longer intervals of comparative peace, which gave 
opportunity for great development. From the death of 
Valerian, in 268, there had been no new formal persecution, 
though the interval is glorified by many noble martyr- 
doms. During such periods, the Christians were able to 
carry out their religious system with completeness, and 
■even with splendour. The city was divided into districts 
or parishes, each having its title, or church, served by 
priests, deacons, and inferior ministers. The poor were 
supported, the sick visited, catechumens instructed; the 
Sacraments were administered, daily worship was prac- 
tised, and the penitential canons were enforced by the 
clergy of each title ; and collections were made for these 
purposes, and others connected with religious charity, and 
its consequence, hospitality. It is recorded, that in 250, 
during- the pontificate of Cornelius, there were in Rome 
forty-six priests, a hundred and fifty-four inferior ministers, 
who were supported by the alms of the faithful, together 
with fifteen hundred poor.* This number of the priests 
pretty nearly corresponds to that of the titles, which St. 
Optatus tells us there were in Rome. 

Although the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs 
continued to be objects of devotion during these more 
peaceful intervals, and these asylums of the persecuted 
* Euseb. E. H. 1. vi. c. 43. 



72 

were kept in order and repair, the3 r did not then serve for 
the ordinary places of worship. The churches to which 
we have already alluded were often public, large, and even 
splendid ; and heathens used to he present at the sermons 
delivered in them, and such portions of the liturgy as were 
open to catechumens. But generally they were in private 
houses, probably made out of the large halls, or triclinia, 
which the nobler mansions contained. Thus we know that 
many of the titles in Rome were originally of that charac- 
ter. Tertullian mentions Christian cemeteries under a name, 
and with circumstances, which show that they were above 
ground, for he compares them to "threshing-floors," which 
were necessarily exposed to the air. 

A custom of ancient Roman life will remove an ob- 
jection which may arise, as to how considerable multitudes 
could assemble in these places, without attracting attention, 
and consequently persecution. It was usual for what may 
he called a levee to be held every morning by the rich, 
attended by dependents, or clients, and messengers from 
their friends, either slaves or freedmen, some of whom were 
admitted into the inner court, to the master's presence, 
while others only presented themselves, and were dismissed. 
Hundreds might thus go in and out of a great house, in 
addition to the crowd, of domestic slaves, tradespeople, and 
others who had access to it, through the principal or the 
back entrance, and little or no notice would be taken of 
the circumstance. 

There is another important phenomenon in the social 
life of the early Christians, which one would hardly know 
how to believe, were not evidence of it brought before us 
in the most authentic Acts of the martyrs, and in ecclesi- 
astical history. It is, the concealment which they con- 
trived to practise. No doubt can be entertained, that 
persons were moving- in the highest society, were occupy- 
ing conspicuous public situations, were near the persons of 
the emperors, who were Christians; and yet were not sus- 

Kected to be such by their most intimate heathen friends. 
[ay, cases occurred, where the nearest relations were kept 
in total ig-norance on this subject. No lie, no dissembling, 
no action especially, inconsistent with Christian morality 



CH. XI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 73 

or Christian truth, was ever permitted to ensure such 
secrecy. But every precaution compatible with complete 
uprightness was taken to conceal Christianity from the 
public eye.* 

HoAvever necessary this prudential course might be, to 
prevent any wanton persecution, its consequences fell often 
heavily upon those who held it. The heathen world, the 
world of power, of influence, and of state, the world which 
made laws as best suited it, and executed them, the world 
that loved earthly prosperity and hated faith, felt itself 
surrounded, filled^ compenetrated by a mysterious system, 
which spread, no one could see now, and exercised an 
influence derived no one knew whence. Families were 
startled at finding a son or daughter to have embraced 
this new law, with which they were not aware that they 
had been in contact, and which, in their heated fancies 
and popular views, they considered stupid, grovelling, and 
anti-social. Hence the hatred of Christianity was political 
as well as religious; the system was considered as un- 
Roman, as having an interest opposed to the extension 
and prosperity of the empire, and as obeying an unseen 
and spiritual power. The Christians were pronounced ir- 
religiod in Cwsares, " disloyal to the emperors," and that 
was enough. Hence their security and peace depended 
much upon the state of popular feeling ; when any dema- 
gogue or fanatic could succeed in rousing this, neither 
their denial of the charges brought against them, nor their 
peaceful demeanour, nor the claims of civilised life, could 
suffice to screen them from such measure of persecution as 
could be safely urged against them. 

* No domestic concealment surely could be more difficult than 
that of a wife's religion from her husband. Yet Tertullian supposes 
this to have been not uncommon. For, speaking of a married 
woman communicating herself at home, according to practice in 
those ages of persecution, he says, " Let not your husband know 
what you taste secretly, before every other food ; and if he shall 
know of the bread, may he not know it to be what it is called.'* 
Ad Uxor. lib. ii. c. 5. Whereas, in another place, he writes of a 
Catholic husband and wife giving communion to one another. De 
Monoyamia, c. 1 1. 



74: fabiola; or, 

_ After these digressive remarks, we will resume, and 
unite again, the broken thread of our narrative. 



CHAPTEE XIL 

THE WOLF AND THE POX. 

The hints of the African slave had not been thrown away 
upon the sordid mind of Corvinus. Her own hatred of 
Christianity arose from the circumstance, that a former 
mistress of hers had become a Christian, and had manu- 
mitted all her other slaves ; but, feeling- it wrong to turn 
so dangerous a character as Afra, or rather Jubala (her 
proper name), upon the world, had transferred her to an- 
other proprietor. 

Corvinus had often seen Fulvius at the baths and 
other places of public resort, had admired and envied him, 
for his appearance, his dress, his conversation. But with 
his untoward shyness, or moroseness, he could never have 
found courage to address him, had he not now discovered, 
that though a more refined, he was not a less profound, 
villain than himself. Fulvius' s wit and cleverness might 
supply the want of these qualities in his own sottish com- 
position, while his own brute force, and unfeeling- reck- 
lessness, might be valuable auxiliaries to those higher gifts. 
He had the young stranger in his power, by the discovery 
which he had made of his real character. He determined, 
therefore, to make an effort, and enter into alliance with 
one who otherwise mig-ht prove a dangerous rival. 

It was about ten days after the meeting last described, 
that Corvinus went to stroll in Pompey's gardens. These 
covered the space round his theatre, in the neighbourhood 
of the present Piazza Farnese. A conflagration in the 
reign of Carinus had lately destroyed the scene, as it was 
called, of the edifice, and Dioclesian had repaired it with 
great magnificence. The gardens were distinguished from 
others by rows of plane-trees, which formed a delicious 



CH. XII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 75 

shade. Statues of wild beasts, fountains, and artificial 
brooks, profusely adorned them. While sauntering- about, 
Corvinus caug-ht a sight of Fulvius, and made up to him. 

" What do you want with me ?" asked the foreigner, 
with a look of surprise and scorn at the slovenly dress of 
Corvinus. 

" To have a talk with you, which may turn out to 
your advantage — and mine." 

" What can you propose to me, with the first of these 
recommendations ? No doubt at all as to the second." 

" Fulvius, I am a plain-spoken man, and have no pre- 
tensions to your cleverness and elegance ; but we are both 
of one trade, and both consequently of one mind." 

Fulvius started, and deeply coloured ; then said, with 
a contemptuous air, "What do you mean, sirrah?" 

" If you double your fist," rejoined Corvinus, " to shovv 
me the fine rings on your delicate fingers, it is very well. 
But if you mean to threaten by it, you may as well put 
your hand again into the folds of your toga. It is more 
graceful." 

" Cut this matter short, sir. Again I ask, what do 
you mean?" 

" This, Fulvius," and he whispered into his ear, "that 
you are a spy and an informer." 

Fulvius was 'staggered ; then rallying, said, " What 
right have you to make such an odious charg-e against 
me?" 

" You discovered" (with a strong emphasis) "a con- 
spiracy in the East, and Dioclesian — " 

Fulvius stopped him, and asked, " What is your name, 
and who are you?" 

" I am Corvinus, the son of Tertullus, prefect of the 
city." _ 

This seemed to account for all; and Fulvius said, in 
subdued tones, " No more here ; I see friends, coming. 
Meet me disguised at daybreak to-morrow in the Patrician 
Street,* under the portico of the Baths of Novatus. We 
will talk more at leisure." 

* The Vicus Patricius. 



76 fabiola; or, 

Corvinus returned home, not ill-satisfied with his first 
attempt at diplomacy ; he procured a garment shabbier 
than his own from one of his father's slaves, and was at 
the appointed spot by the first dawn of day. He had to 
wait a long time, and had almost lost patience, when he 
saw his new friend approach. 

Fulvius was well wrapped up in a large over-coat, and 
wore its hood over his face. He thus saluted Corvinus, 

" Good morning - , comrade ; I fear I have kept you 
waiting in the cold morning air, especially as you are 
thinly clad." 

" I own," replied Corvinus, " that I should have been 
tired, had I not been immensely amused and yet puzzled, 
by what I have been observing." 

" What is that ?" 

" Why, from an early hour, long, I suspect, before my 
coming, there have been arriving here from every side, 
and entering into that house, by the back door in the 
narrow street, the rarest collection of miserable objects 
that you ever saw ; the blind, the lame, the maimed, the 
decrepit, the deformed of every possible shape; while by 
the front door several persons have entered, evidently of a 
different class." 

" Whose dwelling is it, do you know ? It looks a large 
old house, but rather out of condition." 

" It belongs to a very rich, and, it is said, very miserly, 
old patrician. But look ! there come some more." 

At that moment a very feeble man, bent down by age, 
was approaching-, supported by a young' and cheerful girl, 
who chatted most kindly to him as she supported him. 

" We are just there," she said to him ; " a few more 
steps, and you shall sit down and rest." 

" Thank you, my child," replied the poor old man ; 
" how kind of you to come for me so early !" 

" I knew," she said, " you would want help; and as 
I am the most useless person about, I thought I -would go 
and fetch you." 

" I have always heard that blind people are selfish, and 
it seems but natural ; but you, Ccecilia, are certainly an 
exception." 



CH. XII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOME3. 77 

" Not at all ; this is only my way of showing- selfish- 
ness." 

" How do you mean?" 

" Why, first, I get the advantage of your eyes, and 
then I get the satisfaction of supporting you. ' I was an 
eye to the blind,' that is you; and ' a foot to the lame,' 
that is myself." * 

They reached the door as she spoke these words. 

" That girl is blind," said Fulvius to Corvinus. " Do 
you not see how straight she walks, without looking right 
or left?" 

" So she is," answered the other. " Surely this is not 
the place so often spoken of, where beggars meet, and the 
blind see, and the lame walk, and all feast together ? But 
yet I observed these people were so different from the 
mendicants on the Arician bridge.f They appeared respect- 
able and even cheerful ; and not one asked me for alms as 
he passed." 

" It is very strange ; and I should like to discover the 
mystery. A good job might, perhaps, be got out of it. 
The old patrician, you say, is very rich?" 

" Immensely !" 

" Humph ! How could one manage to get in ?" 

" I have it ! I will take off my shoes, screw up one leg 
like a cripple, and join the next group of queer ones that 
come, and go boldly in, doing as they do." 

" That will hardly succeed ; depend upon it every one 
of these people is known at the house." 

" I am sure not, for several of them asked me if this 
was the house of the Lady Agnes." 

" Of whom?" asked Fulvius, with a start. 

" Why do you look so ?" said Corvinus. " It is the 
house of her parents : but she is better known than they, 
as being a young heiress, nearly as rich as her cousin 
Fabiola!" 

Fulvius paused for a moment ; a strong suspicion, too 
subtle and important to be communicated to his rude corn- 

* Job xxix. 15. 

t The place most noted in the neighbourhood of Eome for 
whining and importunate beggars. 



78 

panion, flashed through his mind. He said, therefore, to 
Corvinus, 

" If you are sure that these people are not familiar at 
the house, try your plan. I have met the lady before, 
and will venture by the front door. Thus we shall have 
a double chance." 

" Do you know what I am thinking, Fulvrus ?" 

" Something- very bright, no doubt." 

" That when you and I join in any enterprise, we shall 
always have two chances." 

"What are they?" 

" The fox's and the wolf's, when they conspire to rob 
a fold." 

Fulvius cast on him a look of disdain, which Corvinus 
returned by a hideous leer ; and they separated for their 
respective posts. 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

CHABITT. 

As we do not choose to enter the house of Agnes, either 
with the wolf or with the fox, we will take a more spiritual 
mode of doing so, and find ourselves at once inside. 

The parents of Agnes represented noble lines of an- 
cestry, and her family was not one of recent conversion, 
but had for several generations professed the faith. As in 
heathen families was cherished the memory of ancestors 
who had won a triumph, or held high oflices in the state, 
so in this, and other Christian houses, was preserved with 
pious reverence and affectionate pride, the remembrance of 
those relations who had, in the last hundred and fifty years 
or more, borne the palm of martyrdom, or occupied the 
sublimer dignities of the Church. But, though ennobled 
thus, and with a constant stream of blood poured forth for 
Christ, accompanying the waving branches of the family- 
tree, the stem had never been hewn down, but had survived 
repeated storms. This may appear surprising ; but when we 
reflect how many a soldier goes through a whole campaign of 



CH. XIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 79 

frequent actions, and does not receive a wound; or how many 
a family remains untainted through a plague, we cannot he 
surprised if Providence watched over the well-being of the 
Church, by preserving in it, through old family successions, 
long unbroken chains of tradition, and so enabling the faith- 
ful to say : " Unless the Lord of Hosts had left us seed, 
we had been as Sodom, and we should have been like to 
Gomorrha."* 

All the honours and the hopes of this family centred 
now in one, whose name is already known to our readers, 
Agnes, the only child of that ancient house. Given to her 
parents as they had reached the very verge of hope that 
their line could be continued, she had been from infancy 
blest with such a sweetness of disposition, such a docility 
and intelligence of mind, and such simplicity and innocence 
of character, that she had grown up the common object of 
love, and almost of reverence, to the entire house, from her 
parents down to the lowest servant. Yet nothing seemed 
to spoil, or warp, the compact virtuousness of her nature ; 
but her good qualities expanded, with a well-balanced ad- 
justment, which at the early age in which we find her, had 
ripened into combined grace and wisdom. She shared all 
her parents' virtuous thoughts, and cared as little for the 
world as they. She lived with them in a small portion of 
the mansion, which was fitted up with elegance, though 
not with luxury ,• and their establishment was adequate to 
all their wants. Here they received the few friends with 
whom they preserved familiar relations; though, as they 
did not entertain, nor go out, these were few. Fabiola 
was an occasional visitor, though Agnes preferred going to 
see her at her house ; and she often expressed to her young 
friend her longing for the day, when, meeting with a suit- 
able match, she would re-embellish and open all the splendid 
dwelling. For, notwithstanding the Voconian law " on the 
inheritance of women,"* now quite obsolete, Agnes had 



* Is. i. 9. 

f " Ne quis haoredem virginem neque mulierem faceret," that no 
one should leave a virgin or a woman his heiress. — Cicero in Ver- 
rem, i. 



80 



fabiola; or, 



received, from collateral sources, large personal additions to 
the family property. 

In general, of course, the heathen world, who visited, 
attributed appearances to avarice, and calculated what im- 
mense accumulations of wealth the miserly parents must be 
putting by ; and concluded, that all beyond the solid screen 
which shut up the second court, was left to fall into decay 
and ruin. 

It was not so, however. The inner part of the house, 
consisting- of a large court, and the garden, with a de- 
tached dining-hall, or triclinium, turned into a church, and 
the upper portion of the house, accessible from those parts, 
were devoted to the administration of that copious charity, 
which the Church carried on as a business of its life. It 
was under the care and direction of the deacon Reparatus, 
and his exorcist Secundus, officially appointed by the su- 
preme Pontiff to take care of the sick, poor, and strangers, 
in one of the seven regions into which Pope Cajus, about 
five years before, had divided the city for this purpose ; 
committing each region to one of the seven deacons of the 
Roman Church. 

Rooms were set apart for lodging strangers who came 
from a distance, recommended by other churches; and a 
frugal table was provided for them. Upstairs were apart- 
ments for an hospital for the bed-ridden, the decrepit, and 
the sick, under the care of the deaconesses, and such of the 
faithful as loved to assist in this work of charity. It was 
here that the blind girl had her cell, though she refused to 
take her food, as we have seen, in the house. The tabli- 
nvm, or muniment-room, which generally stood detached 
in the middle of the passage between the inner courts, 
served as the office and archives for transacting the busi- 
ness of this charitable establishment, and preserving all 
local documents, such as the acts of martyrs, procured 
or compiled by the one of the seven notaries, kept for that 
purpose, by institution of St. Clement I., who was attached 
to that region. 

A door of communication allowed the household to assist 
in these works of charity ; and Agnes had been accustomed 
from childhood to run in and out, many times a day, and 



CH. XIV. ] THE CHUBCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 81 

to pass hours there ; always beaming 1 , like an angel of light, 
consolation and joy on the suffering- and distressed. This 
house, then, might be called the almonry of the region, or 
district, of charity and hospitality in which it was situated, 
and it was accessible for these purposes through the posti- 
cum or back-door, situated in a narrow lane little frecmented. 
No wonder that with such an establishment, the fortune of 
the inmates should find an easy application. 

We heard Pancratius request Sebastian, to arrange for 
the distribution of his plate and jewels among the poor, 
without its being known to whom they belonged. He had 
not lost sight of the commission, and had fixed on the house 
of Agnes, as the fittest for this purpose. On the morning 
which we have described, the distribution had to take place ; 
other regions had sent their poor, accompanied by their 
deacons ; while Sebastian, Pancratius, and other persons 
of higher rank had come in through the front-door, to as- 
sist in the division. Some of these had been seen to enter 
by Corvinus. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

EXTREMES MEET. 

A group of poor coming opportunely towards the door, 
enabled Corvinus to tack himself to them, — an admirable 
counterfeit, in all but the modesty of their deportment. 
He kept sufficiently close to them to hear that each of them, 
as he entered in, pronounced the words, " Deo gr atlas" 
" Thanks be to God." This was not merely a Christian, 
but a Catholic pass-word ; for St. Augustine tells us that 
heretics ridiculed Catholics for using it, on the ground that 
it was not a salutation but rather a reply ; but that Catho- 
lics employed it, because consecrated by pious usage. It 
is yet heard in Italy on similar occasions. 

Corvinus pronounced the mystic words, and was al- 
lowed to pass. Following the others closely, and copying- 
their manners and gestures, he found himself in the inner 
court of the house, which was already filled with the poor 

G 



82 fabiola; or, 

and infirm. The men were ranged on one side, the women 
on the other. Under the portico at the end were tables 
piled with costly plate, and near them was another covered 
with brilliant jewellery. Two silver and gold smiths were 
weighing and valuing most conscientiously this property; 
and beside them was the money which they would give, to 
be distributed amongst the poor, in just proportion. 

Corvinus eyed all this with a gluttonous heart. He 
would have given any thing to get it all, and almost 
thought of making a dash at something, and running out. 
But he saw at once the folly or madness of such a course, 
and resolved to wait for a share, and in the meantime take 
note for Fulvius of all he saw. He soon, however, became 
aware of the awkwardness of his present position. While 
the poor were all mixed up together and moving about, he 
remained unnoticed. But he soon saw several young men 
of peculiarly gentle manners, but active, and evidently in 
authority, dressed in the garment known to him by the 
name of Dalmatic, from its Dalmatian origin; that is, 
having over the tunic, instead of the toga, a close-fitting 
shorter tunicle, with ample, but not over long or wide, 
sleeves ; the dress adopted and worn by the deacons, not 
only at their more solemn ministrations in church, but also 
when engaged in the discharge of their secondary duties 
about the sick and poor. 

These ofiicers went on marshalling the attendants, each 
evidently knowing' those of his own district, and conduct- 
ing' them to a peculiar spot within the porticoes. But as 
no one recognised or claimed Corvinus for one of his poor, 
he was at length left alone in the middle of the court. 
Even his dull mind could feel the anomalous situation into 
which he had thrust himself. Here he was, the son of the 
prefect of the city, whose duty it was to punish such vio- 
lators of domestic rights, an intruder into the innermost 
parts of a nobleman's house, having entered by a cheat, 
dressed like a beggar, and as jociating himself with such 
people, of course for some sinister, or at least unlawful, 
purpose. He looked towards the door, meditating an 
escape ; but he saw it guarded by an old man named Dio- 
genes and his two stout sons, who could hardly restrain 



C1I. XIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 83 

their hot blood at this insolence, though they only showed 
it by scowling looks, and repressive biting of their lips. 
He saw that he was a subject of consultation among the 
voung deacons, who cast occasional glances towards him ; 
he imagined that even the blind were staring at him, and 
the decrepit ready to wield their crutches like battle-axes 
against him. He had only one consolation; it was evident 
he was not known, and he hoped to frame some excuse 
for getting out of the scrape. 

At length the Deacon Reparatus came up to him, and 
thus courteously accosted him : 

" Friend, you probably do not belong to one of the 
regions invited here to-day. Where do you live ':" 

" In the region of the Alta Semita."* 

This answer gave the civil, not the ecclesiastical, di- 
vision of Rome • still Reparatus went on : " The Alta 
Semita is in my region, yet I do not remember to have 
seen you." 

While he spoke these words, he was astonished to see 
the stranger turn deadly pale, and totter as if about to fall, 
while his eyes were fixed upon the door of communication 
with the dwelling-house. Reparatus looked in the same 
direction, and saw Pancratius, just entered, and gathering 
some hasty information from Secundus. Corvinus's last 
hope was gone. He stood the next moment confronted 
with the youth (who asked Reparatus to retire), much in 
the same position as they had last met in, only that, in- 
stead of a circle round him of applauders and backers, he 
was here hemmed in on all sides by a multitude who evi- 
dently looked with preference upon his rival. ]\ T or could 
Corvinus help observing the graceful development and 
manly bearing*, which a few weeks had given his late 
school-mate. He expected a volley of keen reproach, 
and, perhaps, such chastisement as he would himself have 
inflicted in similar circumstances. What was his amaze- 
ment when Pancratius thus addressed him in the mildest 
tone : 

" Corvmus, are you really reduced to distress and 

* The upper part of the Quirinal, leading to the Nomentan gate, 
Porta Pia. 



34 fabiola; or, 

lamed by some accident ? Or how have you left your 
father's house ?" 

" Not quite come to that yet, I hope," replied the bully, 
encouraged to insolence by the gentle address, " though, 
no doubt, you would be heartily glad to see it." 

" By no means, I assure you ; I hold you no grudge. 
If, therefore, you require relief, tell me ; and though it is 
not right that you should be here, I can take you into a 
private chamber where you can receive it unknown." 

" Then I will tell you the truth : I came in here merely 
for a freak ; and I should be glad if you could get me 
quietly out." 

" Corvinus," said the youth, with some sternness, " this 
is a serious offence. What would your father say, if I 
desired these young men, who would instantly obey, to 
take you as you are, barefoot, clothed as a slave, counter- 
feiting a cripple, into the Forum before his tribunal, and 
publicly charge you with what every Roman would resent, 
forcing your way into the heart of a patrician's house ?" 

" For the gods' sakes, good Pancratius, do not inflict 
such frightful punishment." 

" You know, Corvinus, that your own father would be 
obliged to act towards you the part of Junius Brutus, or 
forfeit his office." 

" I entreat you by all that you love, by all that you 
hold sacred, not to dishonour me and mine so cruelly. My 
father and his house, not I, would be crushed and ruined 
for ever. I will go on my knees and beg your pardon for 
my former injuries, if you will only be merciful." 

" Hold, hold, Corvinus, I have told you that was long 
forgotten. But hear me now. Every one but the blind 
around you is a witness to this outrage. There will be a 
hundred evidences to prove it. If ever, then, you speak 
of this assembly, still more if you attempt to molest any 
one for it, we shall have it in our power to bring you to 
trial at your own father's judgment-seat. Do you under- 
stand me, Corvinus ?" 

" I do, indeed," replied the captive in a whining tone. 
" Never, as long as I live, will I breathe to mortal soul 
that I came into this dreadful place. I swear it by the—" 



CH. XIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 85 

" Hush, hush ! we want no such oaths here. Take my 
arm, and walk with me." Then turning 1 to the others, he 
contimied : " I know this person ; his coming 1 here is quite 
a mistake." 

The spectators, who had taken the wretch's suppli- 
cating- gestures and tone for accompaniments to a tale of 
woe, and strong' application for relief, joined in crying- out, 
" Pancratius, you will not send him away fasting- and un- 
succoured ?" 

" Leave that to me," was the reply. The self-appointed 
porters gave way before Pancratius, who led Corvinus, still 
pretending to limp, into the street, and dismissed him, say- 
ing- : " Corvinus, we are now quits ; only, take care of your 
promise." 

Fulvius, as we have seen, went to try his fortune by 
the front door. He found it, according to Roman custom, 
unlocked ; and, indeed, no one could have suspected the 
possibility of a stranger entering at such an hour. In- 
stead of a porter, he found, guarding the door, only a 
simple-looking girl about twelve or thirteen years of age, 
clad in a peasant's garment. No one else was near; and 
he thought it an excellent opportunity to verify the strong 
suspicion which had crossed his mind. Accordingly, he 
thus addressed the little portress. 

" What is your name, child, and who are you ?" 

" I am," she replied, " Emerentiana, the Lady Agnes' s 
foster-sister." 

" Are you a Christian ?" he asked her sharply. 

The poor little peasant opened her eyes in the amaze- 
ment of ignorance, and replied : " No, sir." It was impos- 
sible to resist the evidence of her simplicity; and Fulvius 
was satisfied that he was mistaken. The fact was, that 
she was the daughter of a peasant who had been Agnes's 
nurse. The mother had just died, and her kind sister had 
sent for the orphan daughter, intending to have her in- 
structed and baptised. She had only arrived a day or 
two before, and was yet totally iguorant of Christianity. 

Fulvius stood embarrassed what to do next. Solitude 
made him feel as awkwardly situated, as a crowd was 
making Corvinus. He thought of retreating, but this 



86 



FABIOLA; OR, 



would have destroyed all Ms hopes ; he was going to ad- 
vance, when he reflected that he might commit himself 
unpleasantly. At this critical juncture, whom should he 
see coming lightly across the court, hut the youthful mis- 
tress of the house, all joy, all spring, all hrightness and 
sunshine. As soon as she saw him, she stood, as if to 
receive his errand, and he approached with his hlandest 
smile and most courtly gesture, and thus addressed her : 

" I have anticipated the usual hour at which visitors 
come, and, I fear, must appear an intruder, Lady Agnes ; 
but I was impatient to inscribe myself as an humble client 
of your noble house." 

" Our house," she replied, smiling, "boasts of no clients, 
nor do we seek them ; for we have no pretensions to influ- 
ence or power." 

" Pardon me; with such a ruler, it possesses the highest 
of influences and the mightiest of powers, those which reign, 
without effort, over the heart as a most willing subject. 

Incapable of imagining that such words could allude to 
herself, she replied, with artless simplicity : 

" Oh, how true are your words ! the Lord of this 
house is indeed the sovereign over the affections of all 
within it." 

" But I," interposed Fulvius, " allude to that softer 
and benigner dominion, which graceful charms alone can 
exercise on those who from near behold them." 

Agnes looked as one entranced; her eyes beheld a very 
different image before them from that of her wretched flat- 
terer; and with an impassioned glance towards heaven, 
she exclaimed : 

" Yes, lie whose beauty sun and moon in their lofty 
firmament gaze on and admire, to Him is pledged my ser- 
vice and my love."* 

Fulvius was confounded and perplexed. The inspired 
look, the rapturous attitude, the music of the thrilling tones 
in which she uttered these words, their mysterious import, 
the strangeness of the whole scene, fastened him to the 
spot, and sealed his lips ; till, feeling that he was losing the 

* " Cujus pulchritudinem sol et luna mirantur, ipsi soli servo 
fidem." — Office of St. Agnes. 



CH. XIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 87 

most favourable opportunity he could ever expect of open- 
ing his mind (affection it could not be called) to her, he 
boldly said, " It is of you I am speaking ; and I entreat 
you to believe my expression of sincerest admiration of 
you, and of unbounded attachment to you." As he uttered 
these words, he dropt on his knee, and attempted to take 
her hand; but the maiden bounded back with a shudder, 
and turned away her burning countenance. 

Fulvius started in an instant to his feet; for he saw 
Sebastian, who was come to summon Agnes to the poor, 
impatient of her absence, striding - forwards towards him, 
with an air of indignation. 

"Sebastian," said Agnes to him, as he approached, 
" be not angry ; this gentleman has probably entered here 
by some unintentional mistake, and no doubt will quietly 
retire." Saying this, she withdrew. 

Sebastian, with his calm but energetic manner, now 
addressed the intruder, who quailed beneath his look, 
" Fulvius, what do you here ? what business has brought 
you?" 

"I suppose," answered he, regaining courage, "that 
having met the lady of the house at the same place with 
you, her noble cousin's table, I have a right to wait upon 
her, in common with other voluntary clients." 

" But not at so unreasonable an hour as this, I pre- 
sume ?" 

" The hour that is not unreasonable for a young officer," 
retorted Fulvius insolently, " is not, I trust, so for a civi- 
lian." 

Sebastian had to use all his power of self-control to 
check his indignation, as he replied, 

" Fulvius, be not rash in what you say ; but remem- 
ber that two persons may be on a very different footing in 
a house. Yet not even the longest familiarity, still less a 
one dinner's acqtiaintanee, can authorise or justify the au- 
dacity of your bearing towards the young mistress of this 
house, a few moments ago." 

" Oh, you are jealous, I suppose, brave captain !" re- 
plied Fulvius, with his most refined sarcastic tone. " Re- 
port says that you are the acceptable, if not accepted, can- 



88 fabiola; or, 

didate for Fabiola's hand. She is now in the country; 
and, no doubt, you wish to make sure for yourself of the 
fortune of one or the other of Rome's richest heiresses. 
There is nothing like having two strings to one's bow." 

This coarse and bitter sarcasm wounded the noble offi- 
cer's best feelings to the quick ; and had he not long before 
disciplined himself to Christian meekness, his blood would 
have proved too powerful for his reason. 

" It is not good for either of us, Fulvius, that you re- 
main longer here. The courteous dismissal of the noble 
lady whom you have insulted has not sufficed; I must 
be the ruder executor of her command." Saying this, he 
took the unbidden guest's arm in his powerful grasp, and 
conducted him to the door. When he had put him out- 
side, still holding- him fast, he added, " Go now, Fulvius, 
in peace; and remember that you have this day made 
yourself amenable to the laws of the state by this unwor- 
thy conduct. I will spare you, if you know how to keep 
your own counsel ; but it is well that you should know, 
that I am acquainted with your occupation in Rome ; and 
that I hold this morning's insolence over your head, as a 
security that 3'ou will follow it discreetly. Now, again I 
say, go in peace." 

But he had no sooner let go his grasp, than he felt 
himself seized from behind by an unseen, but evidently an 
athletic, assailant. It was Eurotas, from whom Fulvius 
■durst conceal nothing-, and to whom he had confided the 
intended interview with Corvinus, that had followed and 
watched him. From the black slave he had before learnt 
the mean and coarse character of this client of her magical 
arts ; and he feared some trap. When he saw the seeming- 
struggle at the door, he ran stealthily behind Sebastian, 
who, he fancied, must be his pupil's new ally, and pounced 
upon him with a bear's rude assault. But he had no com- 
mon rival to deal with. He attempted in vain, though 
now helped by Fulvius, to throw the soldier heavily down; 
till, despairing of success in this way, he detached from his 
girdle a small but deadly weapon, a steel mace of finished 
Syrian make, and was raising- it over the back of Sebas- 
tian's head, when he felt it wrenched in a trice from his 



CH. XV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 89 

hand, and himself twirled two or three times round, in an 
iron gripe, and flung flat in the middle of the street. 

" I am afraid you have hurt the poor fellow, Qua- 
dratus," said Sebastian to his centurion, who was coming 
up at that moment to join his fellow-Christians, and was 
of most Herculean make and strength. 

" He well deserves it, tribune, for his cowardly as- 
sault," replied the other, as they re-entered the house. 

The two foreigners, crest-fallen, slunk away from the 
scene of their defeat ; and as they turned the corner, 
caught a glimpse of Corvinus, no longer limping, but 
running as fast as his legs would carry him, from his dis- 
comfiture at the back-door. However often they may 
have met afterwards, neither ever alluded to their feats of 
that morning. Each knew that the other had incurred 
only failure and shame ; and they came both to the con- 
clusion, that there was one fold at least in Rome, which 
either fox or wolf would assail in vain. 



CHAPTEE XV. 

CHAKITT EETUENS. 

When calm had been restored, after this twofold dis- 
turbance, the work of the day went quietly on. Besides 
the distribution of greater alms, such as was made by St. 
Laurence, from the Church, it was by no means so un- 
common in early ages, for fortunes to be given away at 
once, by those who wished to retire from the world.* 
Indeed we should naturally expect to find, that the noble 
charity of the Apostolic Church at Jerusalem would not 
be a barren example to that of Rome. But this extra- 
ordinary charity would be most naturally suggested at 
periods when the Church was threatened with persecution j 

* We have it recorded of Nepotian, that on his conversion he 
distributed all his property to the poor. St. Paulinus of Nola did 
the same. 



90 

and when Christians, who from position and circumstances 
might look forward to martyrdom, would, to use a homely 
phrase, clear their hearts and houses for action, hy remov- 
ing from both whatever could attach themselves to earth, 
and become the spoil of the impious soldier, instead of 
having been made the inheritance of the poor.* 

Nor would the great principles be forgotten, of making- 
the light of good works to shine before men, while the 
hand which filled the lamp, poured in its oil in the secret, 
which only He who seeth in secret can penetrate. The 
plate and jewels of a noble family publicly valued, sold, 
and, in their price, distributed to the poor, must have been 
a bright example of charity, which consoled the Church, 
animated the generous, shamed the avaricious, touched the 
heart of the catechumen, and drew blessings and prayers 
from the lips of the poor. And yet the individual right 
hand that gave them remained closely shrouded from the 
scrutiny or consciousness of the left; and the humility and 
modesty of the noble giver remained concealed in His 
bosom, into which these earthly treasures were laid up, to 
be returned with boundless and eternal usury. 

And such was the case in the instance before us. When 
all was prepared, Dionysius the priest, who at the same 
time was the physician to whom the care of the sick was 
committed, and who had succeeded Polycarp in the title 
of St. Pastor, made his appearance, and seated in a chair 
at one end of the court, thus addressed the assembly : 

" Dear brethren, our merciful God has touched the 
heart of some charitable brother, to have compassion on 
his poorer brethren, and strip himself of much worldly 
possession, for Christ's sake. Who he is I know not; nor 
would I seek to know. He is some one who loves not to 
have his treasures where rust consumes, and thieves break 
in and steal, but prefers, like the blessed Laurence, that 
they should be borne up, by the hands of Christ's poor, 
into the heavenly treasury. 

" Accept then, as a gift from God, who has inspired 
this charity, the distribution which is about to be made, 

* " Dabis impio militi quod non vis dare sacordoti, et hoc tollit 
fiscus, quod non accipit Christus." — St. Aug. 



CH. XV.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 91 

and which may he a useful help, in the days of tribulation, 
which are preparing- for us. And as the only return which 
is desired from you, join all in that familiar prayer, which 
we daily recite for those who give, or do, us good." 

During' this brief address, poor Pancratius knew not 
which way to look. He had shrunk into a corner behind 
the assistants, and Sebastian had compassionately stood 
before him, making himself as large as possible. And his 
emotion did all but betray him, when the whole of that 
assembly knelt down, and with outstretched hands, up- 
lifted eyes, and fervent tone, cried out, as if with one 
voice, 

" Retribuere dignare, Domine, omnibus nobis bonafa- 
cientibus, propter Nomen tuum, vitam ccternam. Atnen."* 

The alms were then distributed, and they proved un- 
expectedly large. Abundant food was also served out to 
all, and a cheerful banquet closed the edifying scene. It 
was yet early : indeed many partook not of food, as a still 
more delicious, and spiritual, feast was about to be prepared 
for them in the neighbouring titular church. 

When all was over, Coecilia insisted upon seeing her 
poor old cripple safe home, and upon carrying" for him his 
heavy canvas purse ; and chatted so cheerfully to him, 
that he was surprised when he found they had reached the 
door of his poor but clean lodging. His blind guide then 
thrust his purse into his hand, and giving him a hurried 
good day, tripped away most lightly, and was soon lost 
to his sight. The bag seemed uncommonly full ; so he 
counted carefully its contents, and found, to his amaze- 
ment, that he had a double portion. He tried again, 
and still it was so. At the first opportunity, he made in- 
quiries from Eepai atus, but could get no explanation. If 
he had seen Coecilia, when she had turned the corner, 
laugh outright, as if she had been playing some one a 
good trick, and running as lightly as if she had nothing 
heavy about her, he might have discovered a solution of 
the problem of Ms wealth. 

* " Be pleased to render, O Lord, eternal life to all who for Thy 
Name's sake do unto us good things." 



92 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE MONTH OF OCTOBER. 

The month of October in Italy is certainly a glorious sea- 
son. The sun has contracted his heat, but not his splendour ; 
he is less scorching, but not less bright. As he rises in the 
morning, he dashes sparks of radiance over awaking nature, 
as an Indian prince, upon entering his presence-chamber, 
flings handful s of gems and gold into the crowd ; and the 
mountains seem to stretch forth their rocky heads, and the 
woods to wave their lofty arms, in eagerness to catch his 
royal largess. And after careering through a cloudless 
sky, when he reaches his goal, and finds his bed spread 
with molten gold on the western sea, and canopied above 
with purple clouds, edged with burnished yet airy fringes, 
more brilliant than Ophir supplied to the couch of Solomon, 
he expands himself into a huge disk of most benignant 
effulgence, as if to bid farewell to his past course ; but soon 
sends back, after disappearing, radiant messengers from the 
world he is visiting and cheering, to remind us he will soon 
come back, and gladden us again. If less powerful, his 
ray is certainly richer and more active. It has taken 
months to draw out of the sapless, shrivelled vine-stem, 
first green leaves, then crisp slender tendrils, and last little 
clusters of hard sour berries ; and the growth has been 
provokingly slow. But now the leaves are large and 
mantling-, and worthy in vine-countries to have a name of 
their own • * and the separated little knots have swelled 
up into luxurious bunches of grapes. And of these some 
are already assuming their brig-ht amber tint, while those 
which are to glow in rich imperial purple, are passing 
rapidly to it, through a changing opal hue, scarcely less 
beautiful. 

It is pleasant then to sit in a shady spot, on a hill side, 
and look ever and anon, from one's book, over the varied 
and varying landscape. For, as the breeze sweeps over 
the olives on the hill-side, and turns over their leaves, it 

* Pampinus, pampino. 



CH. XVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 93 

brings out from them light and shade, for their two sides 
vary in sober tint; and as the sun shines, or the cloud 
darkens, on the vineyards, in the rounded hollows between, 
the brilliant web of unstirring vine-leaves displays a yel- 
lower or browner shade of its delicious green. Then, mingle 
with these the innumerable other colours that tinge the pic- 
ture, from the dark cypress, the duller ilex, the rich chestnut, 
the reddening orchard, the adust stubble, the melancholy 
pine — to Italy what the palm-tree is to the East — towering- 
above the box, and the arbutus, and laurels of villas, and 
these scattered all over the mountain, hill, and plain, with 
fountains leaping up, and cascades gliding down, porticoes 
of glittering marble, statues of bronze and stone, painted 
fronts of rustic dwellings, with flowers innumerable, and 
patches of greensward ; and you have a faint idea of the 
attractions which, for this month, as in our days, used 
to draw out the Roman patrician and knight, from what 
Horace calls the clatter and smoke of Rome, to feast his 
eyes upon the calmer beauties of the country. 

And so, as the happy month approached, villas were 
seen open to let in air ; and innumerable slaves were busy, 
dusting and scouring, trimming the hedges into fantastic 
shapes, clearing the canals for the artificial brooklets, and 
plucking up the weeds from the gravel-walks. The villicus 
or country steward superintends all; and with sharp word, 
or sharper lash, makes many suffer, that perhaps one only 
may enjoy. 

At last the dusty roads become encumbered with every 
species of vehicle, from the huge wain carrying furniture, 
and slowly drawn by oxen, to the light chariot or gig, 
dashing on behind spirited barbs; and as the best roads 
were narrow, and the drivers of other days were not more 
smooth-tongued than those of ours, we may imagine what 
confusion and noise and squabbling filled the public ways. 
Nor was there a favoured one among these. Sabine, Tus- 
culan, and Alban hills were all studded over with splendid 
villas, or humbler cottages, such as a Maecenas or a Horace 
might respectively occupy; even the flat Campagna of 
Rome is covered with the ruins of immense country resi- 
dences ; while from the mouth of the Tiber, along the 



94 FAEIOLA; OR, 

coast by Laurentum, Lanuvium, and Antium, and so on to 
Cajeta, Bajse, and other fashionable watering-places round 
Vesuvius, a street of noble residences may be said to have 
run. Nor were these limits sufficient to satisfy the periodical 
fever for rustication in Rome. The borders of Benacus (now 
the Lago Maggiore, north of Milan), Como, and the beau- 
tiful banks of the Brenta, received their visitors not from 
neighbouring cities only, still less from wanderers of Ger- 
manic origin, but rather from the inhabitants of the im- 
perial capital. 

It was to one of these "tender eyes of Italy," as Pliny 
calls its villas,* because forming its truest beauty, that 
Fabiola had hastened, before the rush on the road, the day 
after her black slave's interview with Corvinus. It was 
situated on the slope of the hill which descends to the bay 
of Gaeta; and was remarkable, like her house, for the good 
taste which arranged the most costly, though not luxurious, 
elements of comfort. From the terrace in front of the 
elegant villa, could be seen the calm azure bay, embowered 
in the richest of shores, like a mirror in an embossed and 
enamelled frame, relieved by the white sun-lit sails of 
yachts, galleys, pleasure-boats, and fishing-skiffs • from 
some of which rose the roaring laugh of excursionists, from 
others the song or harp-notes of family parties, or the loud, 
sharp, and not over-refined ditties of the various plough- 
men of the deep. A gallery of lattice, covered with creepers, 
led to the baths on the shore ; and balf way down was an 
opening on a favourite spot of green, kept ever fresh by 
the gaish, from an out-cropping" rock, of a crystal spring - , 
confined for a moment in a natural bason, in which it bub- 
bled and fretted, till, rushing over its ledge, it went down 
murmuring and chattering 1 , in the most good-natured way 
imaginable, along the side of the trellis, into the sea. Two 
enormous plane-trees cast their shade over this classic 
ground, as did Plato's and Cicero's over their choice scenes 
of philosophical disquisition. The most beautiful flowers 
and plants from distant climates had been taught to make 
this spot their home, sheltered, as it was, equally from sul- 
triness and from frost. 

* Ocelli Italice. 



CH. XVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 95 

Fabius, for reasons which will be explained later, sel- 
dom paid more than a flying' visit for a couple of days to 
this villa; and even then it was generally on his way to 
some gayer resort of Eoman fashion, where he had, or 
pretended to have, business. His daughter was, therefore, 
mostly alone, and enjoyed a delicious solitude. Besides a 
well-furnished library always kept at the villa, chiefly con- 
taining works on agriculture, or of a local interest, a stock 
of books, some old favourites, other lighter productions of 
the season (of which she generally procured an early copy 
at a high price), was brought every year from Rome, toge- 
ther with a quantity of smaller familiar works of art, such 
as, distributed through new apartments, make them become 
a home. Most of her morning hours were spent in the 
cherished retreat just described, with a book-casket at her 
side, from which she selected first one volume, and then 
another. But any visitor calling upon her this year, would 
have been surprised to find her almost always with a com- 
panion — and that a slave ! 

We may imagine how amazed she was when, the day 
following the dinner at her house, Agnes informed her, that 
Syra had declined leaving her service, though tempted by 
a bribe of hberty. Still more astonished was she at learn- 
ing, that the reason was attachment to herself. She could 
feel no pleasurable consciousness of having earned this 
affection by any acts of kindness, nor even by any decent 
gratitude for her servant's care of her in illness. She was 
therefore at first inclined to think Syra a fool for her 
pains. But it would not do in her minu. It was true she 
had often read or heard of instances of fidelity and devot- 
edness in slaves, even towards oppressive masters;* but 
these were always accounted as exceptions to the general 
rule ; and what were a few dozen cases, in as many cen- 
turies, of love, compared with the daily ten thousand ones 
of hatred around her? Yet here was a clear and palpable 
one at hand, and it struck her forcibly. She waited a 
time, and watched her maid eagerly, to see if she could 
discover in her conduct any airs, any symptom of thinking 

* Such as are given by Macrobius in his Saturnalia, lib. i., and 
by Valerius Maximus. 



96 

she had done a grand thing-, and that her mistress must 
feel it. Not in the least. Syra pursued all her duties 
with the same simple diligence, and never betrayed any 
signs of believing herself less a slave than before. Fa- 
biola's heart softened more and more; and she now began 
to think that not quite so difficult, which, in her conver- 
sation with Agnes, she had pronounced impossible — to love 
a slave. And she had also discovered a second evidence, 
that there was such a thing in the world, as disinterested 
love, affection that asked for no return. 

Her conversations with her slave, after the memorable 
one which we have recounted, had satisfied her that she 
had received a superior education. She was too delicate to 
question her on her early history; especially as masters 
often had young slaves highly educated, to enhance their 
value. But she soon discovered that she read Greek and 
Latin authors with ease and elegance, and wrote well in 
both languages. By degrees she raised her position, to 
the great annoyance of her companions : she ordered Eu- 
phrosyne to give her a separate room, the greatest of com- 
forts to the poor maid ; and she employed her near herself 
as a secretary and reader. Still she could perceive no 
change in her conduct, no pride, no pretensions ; for the 
moment any work presented itself of the menial character 
formerly allotted to her, she never seemed to think of 
turning it over to any one else, but at once naturally and 
cheerfully set herself about it. 

The reading generally pursued by Fabiola was, as has 
been previously observed, of rather an abstruse and refined 
character, consisting of philosophical literature. She was 
surprised, however, to find how her slave, by a simple re- 
mark, would often confute an apparently solid maxim, 
bring down a grand flight of virtuous declamation, or sug- 
gest a higher view of moral truth, or a more practical 
course of action, than authors whom she had long admired 
proposed in their writings. Nor was this done by any ap- 
parent shrewdness of judgment or pungency of wit; nor 
did it seem to come from much reading, or deep thought, 
or superiority of education. For though she saw traces of 
this in Syra's words, ideas, and behaviour, yet the books 



CH. XVI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 9? 

and doctrines which she was reading- now, were evidently 
new to her. But there seemed to be in her maid's mind 
some latent but infallible standard of truth, some master- 
key, which opened equally every closed deposit of moral 
knowledge, some well-attuned chord, which vibrated in 
unfailing' unison with what was just and right, but jangled 
in dissonance with whatever was wrong 1 , vicious, or even 
inaccurate. What this secret was, she wanted to discover ; 
it was more like an intuition, than any thing* she had before 
witnessed. She was not yet in a condition to learn, that 
the meanest and least in the Kingdom of Heaven (and 
what lower than a slave ?) was greater in spiritual wisdom, 
intellectual light, and heavenly privileges, than even the 
Baptist Precursor.* 

It was on a delicious morning in October, that, reclining 
by the spring - , the mistress and slave were occupied in read- 
ing • when the former, wearied with the heaviness of the 
volume, looked for something lighter and newer; and, 
drawing out a manuscript from her casket, said : 

" Syra, put that stupid book down. Here is something*, 
I am told, very amusing, and only just come out. It will 
be new to both of us." 

The handmaid did as she was told, looked at the title 
of the proposed volume, and blushed. She glanced over 
the few first lines, and her fears were confirmed. She saw 
that it was one of those trashy works, which were freely 
allowed to circulate, as St. Justin complained, though 
grossly immoral, and making light of all virtue:, while 
every Christian writing was suppressed, or as much as pos- 
sible discountenanced. She put down the book with a 
calm resolution, and said : 

" Do not, my good mistress, ask me to read to you 
from that book. It is fit neither for me to recite, nor for 
you to hear." 

Fabiola was astonished. She had never heard, or even 
thought, of such a thing as restraint put upon her studies. 
What in our days would be looked upon as unfit for com- 
mon perusal, formed part of current and fashionable lite- 
rature. From Horace to Ausonius, all classical writers de- 
* Matt. xii. 11. 

H 



98 



FABIOLA; OR, 



monstrate this. And what rule of virtue could have made 
that reading- seem indelicate, which only descrihed by the 
pen a system of morals, which the pencil and the chisel 
made hourly familiar to every eye? Fabiola had no higher 
standard of right and wrong- than the system, under which 
she had been educated could give her. 

" What possible harm can it do either of us?" she 
asked, smiling. " I have no doubt there are plenty of foul 
crimes and wicked actions described in the book; but it 
will not induce us to commit them. And, in the mean- 
time, it is amusing to read them of others." 

" Would you yourself, for any consideration, do them ?" 

" Not for the world." 

" Yet, as you hear them read, their image must occupy 
your mind ; as they amuse you, your thoughts must dwell 
upon them with pleasure." 

" Certainly. What then?" 

" That image is foulness, that thought is wickedness." 

" How is that possible ? Does not wickedness require 
an action, to have any existence?" 

" True, my mistress ; and what is the action of the 
mind, or as I call it the soul, but thought ? A passion 
which wishes death, is the action of this invisible power, 
like it, unseen ; the blow which inflicts it is but the me- 
chanical action of the body, discernible like its origin. But 
which power commands, and which obeys ? In which re- 
sides the responsibility of the final effect ?" 

" I understand you," said Fabiola, after a pause of 
some little mortification. " But one diificulty remains. 
There is responsibility, you maintain, for the inward, as 
well as the outward, act. To whom ? If the second fol- 
low, there is joint responsibility for both, to society, to the 
laws, to principles of justice, to self; for painful results 
will ensue. But if only the inward action exist, to whom 
can there be responsibility ? Who sees it? Who can pre- 
sume to judge it ? Who to control it ?" 

" God," answered Syra, with simple earnestness. 

Fabiola was disappointed. She expected some new 
theory, some striking principle, to come out. Instead, 
they had sunk down into what she feared was mere super- 



CH. XVI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 99 

stition, though, not so much as she once had deemed it. 
" What, Syra, do you then really believe in Jupiter, and 
Juno, or perhaps Minerva, who is about the most respect- 
able of the Olympian family ? Do you think they have 
any thing- to do with our affairs ?" 

" Far indeed from it ; I loathe their very names, and I 
detest the wickedness which their histories or fables sym- 
bolise on earth. No, I spoke not of gods and goddesses, 
but of one only God." 

" And what do you call Him, Syra, in your system?" 

" He has no name but God; and that only men have 
given Him, that they may speak of Him. It describes 
not His nature, His origin, His attributes." 

"And what are these?" asked the mistress, with 
awakened curiosity. 

" Simple as light is His nature, one and the same 
every where, indivisible, undeniable, penetrating yet dif- 
fusive, ubiquitous and imhmited. He existed before there 
was any beginning; He will exist after all ending has 
ceased. Power, wisdom, goodness, love, justice too, and 
unerring judgment belong to Him by His nature, and are 
as unlimited and unrestrained as it. He alone can create, 
He alone preserve, and He alone destroy." 

Fabiola had often read of the inspired looks which 
animated a sibyl, or the priestess of an oracle ; but she 
had never witnessed them till now. The slave's counte- 
nance glowed, her eyes shone with a calm brilliancy, her 
frame was immovable, the words flowed from her lips, as 
if these were but the opening of a musical reed, made vocal 
by another's breath. Her expression and manner forcibly 
reminded Fabiola of that abstracted and mysterious look, 
which she had so often noticed in Agnes ; and though in the 
child it was more tender and graceful, in the maid it seemed 
more earnest and oracular. " How enthusiastic and ex- 
citable an Eastern temperament is, to be sure !" thought 
Fabiola, as she gazed upon her slave. " No wonder the 
East should be thought the land of poetry and inspiration." 
When she saw Syra relaxed from the evident tension of her 
mind, she said, in as light a tone as she could assume : 
" But ; Syra, can you think, that a Being such as you have 



100 

describee^ far beyond all the conception of ancient fable, 
can occupy Himself with constantly watching the actions, 
still more the paltry thoughts, of millions of creatures ?" 

" It is no occupation, lady, it is not even choice. I 
called Him light. Is it occupation or labour to the sun to 
send his rays through the crystal of this fountain, to the 
very pebbles in its bed ? See how, of themselves they dis- 
close, not only the beautiful, but the foul that harbours 
there ; not only the sparkles that the falling drops strike 
from its rough sides ; not only the pearly bubbles that 
merely rise, glisten for a moment, then break against the 
surface ; not only the golden fish that bask in their light, 
but black and loathsome creeping thing's, which seek to 
hide and bury themselves in dark nooks below, and cannot; 
for the light pursues them. Is there toil or occupation 
in all this, to the sun that thus visits them ? Far more 
would it appear so, were he to restrain his beams at the 
surface of the transparent element, and hold them back 
from throwing- it into light. And what he does here he 
does in the next stream, and in that which is a thousand 
miles off, with equal ease ; nor can any imaginable increase 
of their number, or bulk, lead us to fancy, or believe, that 
rays would be wanting, or light would fail, to scrutinise 
them all." 

" Your theories are beautiful always, Syra, and, if true, 
most wonderful ;" observed Fabiola, after a pause, during 1 
which her eyes were fixedly contemplating the fountain, as 
though she were testing - the truth of Syra's words. 

" And they sound like truth," she added ; " for could 
falsehood be more beautiful than truth? But what an 
awful idea, that one has never been alone, has never had a 
wish to oneself, has. never held a single thought in secret, 
has never hidden the most foolish fancy of a proud or 
childish brain, from the observation of One that knows no 
imperfection. 'Terrible thought, that one is living, if you 
say true, under the steady gaze of an Eye, of which the 
sun is but a shadow, for he enters not "the soul ! It is 
enoug'h to make one any evening - commit self-destruction, 
to get rid of the torturing watchfulness ! Yet it sounds so 



CH. XVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 101 

Fabiola looked almost wild as she spoke these words. 
The pride of her pagan heart rose strong- within her, and 
she rebelled against the supposition that she could never 
again feel alone with her own thoughts, or that any power 
should exist which could control her inmost desires, ima- 
ginings, or caprices. Still the thought came back : " Yet 
it seems so true !" Her generous intellect struggled against 
the writhing passion, like an eagle with a serpent; more 
with eye, than with beak and talons, subduing the quailing 
foe. After a struggle, visible in her countenance and ges- 
tures, a calm came over her. She seemed for the first 
time to feel the presence of One greater than herself, some 
one whom she feared, yet whom she would wish to love. 
She bowed down her mind, she bent her intelligence to 
His feet ; and her heart too owned, for the first time, that 
it had a Master, and a Lord. 

Syra, with calm intensity of feeling, silently watched the 
workings of her mistress's mind. She knew how much 
depended on their issue, what a mighty step in her un- 
conscious pupil's religious progress was involved in the 
recognition of the truth before her; and she fervently 
prayed for this grace. 

At length Fabiola raised her head, which seemed to 
have been bowed down in accompaniment to her mind, and 
with graceful kindness said, 

" Syra, I am sure I have not yet reached the depths of 
your knowledge ; you must have much more to teach me." 
(A tear and a blush came to the poor handmaid's relief.) 
"But to-day you have opened a new world, and a new 
life, to my thoughts. A sphere of virtue beyond the 
opinions and the judgments of men, a consciousness of a 
controlling, an approving, and a rewarding Power too : am 
I rig-ht?" (Syra expressed approbation,) " standing by us 
when no other eye can see, or restrain, or encourage us ; a 
feeling that, were we shut up for ever in solitude, we should 
be ever the same, because that influence on us must be so 
superior to that of any amount of human principles, in 
guiding us, and could not leave us; such, if I understand 
your theory, is the position of moral elevation, in which it 
would place each individual. To fall below it, even with 



102 FABIOLA; OR, 

an outwardly virtuous life, is mere deceit, and positive 
wickedness. Is this so ?" 

"0 my dear mistress," exclaimed Syra, "how much 
better you can express all this than I !" 

" You have never flattered me yet, Syra," replied Fa- 
biola, smilingly ; " do not begin now. But you have 
thrown a new light upon other subjects, till to-day ob- 
scure to me. Tell me, now, was it not this you meant, 
when you once told me, that in your view there was 
no distinction between mistress and slave ; that is, that 
as the distinction is only outward, bodily and social, it is 
not to be put in comparison with that equality which exists 
before your Supreme Being, and that possible moral supe- 
riority which He might see- of the one over the other, in- 
versely of their visible rank ?" 

" It was in a great measure so, my noble lady; though 
there are other considerations involved in the idea, which 
would hardly interest you at present." 

" And yet, when yoxi stated that proposition, it seemed 
to me so monstrous, so absurd, that pride and anger over- 
came me. Do you remember that, Syra ?" 

"Oh, no, no!" replied the gentle servant; "do not 
allude to it, I pray !" 

" Have you forgiven me that day, Syra ?" said the 
mistress, with an emotion quite new to her. 

The poor maid was overpowered. She rose and threw 
herself on her knees before her mistress, and tried to seize 
her hand; but she prevented her, and, for the first time 
in her life, Fabiola threw herself upon a slave's neck, and 
wept. 

Her passion of tears was long and tender. Her heart 
was getting above her intellect ; and this can only be by 
its increasing softness. At length she grew calm ; and as 
she withdrew her embrace she said : 

" One thing more, Syra : dare one address, by worship, 
this Being whom you have described to me ? Is He not 
too great, too lofty, too distant, for this ?" 

" Oh, no ! far from it, noble lady," answered the ser- 
vant. " He is not distant from any of us ; for as much 
as in the light of the sun, so in the very splendour of His 



CH. XVI.j THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 103 

might, His kindness, and His wisdom, we live and move 
and have our being. Hence, one may address Him, not 
as far off, but as around us and within us, whils we are in 
Him ; and He bears us not with ears, but our words drop 
at once into His very bosom, and the desires of our hearts 
pass directly into the divine abyss of His." 

" But," pursued Fabiola, somewhat timidly, " is there 
no great act of acknowledgment, such as sacrifice is sup- 
posed to be, whereby He may be formally recognised and 
adored ?" 

Syra hesitated, for the conversation seemed to be trench- 
ing upon mysterious and sacred ground, never opened by 
the Church to profane foot. She, however, answered in a 
simple and general affirmative. 

" And could not I," still more humbly asked her mis- 
tress, " be so far instructed in your school, as to be able to 
perform this sublimer act of homage ?" 

" I fear not, noble Fabiola ; one must needs obtain a 
Victim worthy of the Deity " 

" Ah, yes ! to be sure," answered Fabiola. " A bid! 
may be good enough for Jupiter, or a goat for Bacchus ; 
but where can be found a sacrifice worthy of Him, whom 
you have brought me to know ?" 

" It must indeed be one every way worthy of Him, 
spotless in purity, matchless in greatness, unbounded in 
acceptableness." 

" And what can that be, Syra ?" 

" Only Himself." 

Fabiola shrouded her face with her hands, and then 
looking up earnestly into Syra's face, said to her : 

" I am sure that, after having so clearly described to 
me the deep sense of responsibility, under which you must 
habitually speak as well as act, you have a real meaning 
in this awful saying, though I understand you not." 

" As surely as every word of mine is heard, as every 
thought of mine is seen, it is a truth which I have spoken." 

" I have not strength to carry the siibject further at 
present ; my mind has need of rest." 



104 FABIOLA; OR, 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY. 

After this conversation Fabiola retired j and during the 
rest of the day her mind was alternately agitated and 
calm. When she looked steadily on the grand view of 
moral life which her mind had grasped, she found an un- 
usual tranquillity in its contemplation; she felt as if she 
had made discovery of a great phenomenon, the knowledge 
of which guided her into a new and lofty region, whence 
she coidd smile on the errors and follies of mankind. But 
when she considered the responsibility which this light im- 
posed, the watchfulness which it demanded, the unseen and 
unrequited struggles which it required, the desolateness, 
almost, of a virtue without admiration or even sympathy, 
she ag'ain shrunk from the life that was before her, as 
about to be passed without any stay or help, from the 
only sources of it which she knew. Unconscious of the 
real cause, she saw that she possessed not instruments or 
means, to carry out the beautiful theory. This seemed to 
stand like a brilliant lamp in the midst of a huge, bare, 
unfurnished hall, lighting up only a wilderness. What 
was the use of so much wasted splendour ? 

The next morning had been fixed for one of those visits 
which used to be annually paid in the country, — that to 
the now ex-prefeet of the city, Chromatius. Our reader 
will remember, that after his conversion and resignation 
of office, this magistrate had retired to his villa in Cam- 
pania, taking with him a number of the converts made by 
Sebastian, with the holy priest Polycarp, to complete their 
instruction. Of these circumstances, of course, Fabiola 
had never been informed ; but she heard all sorts of curious 
reports about Chromatius's villa. It was said that he had a 
number of visitors never before seen at his house ; that he 
gave no entertainments ; that he had freed all his country 
slaves, but that many of them had preferred remaining 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 105 

with him; that if numerous, the whole estahlishment 
seemed very happy, though no boisterous sports or frolic- 
some meeting's seemed to be indulged in. All this stimu- 
lated Fabiola' s curiosity, in addition to her wish to dis- 
charge a pleasing- duty of courtesy to a most kind friend 
of hers from childhood ; and she longed to see, with her 
own eyes, what appeared to her to be a very Platonic, or, 
as we should say, Utopian, experiment. 

In a light country carriage, with good horses, Fabiola 
started early, and dashed gaily along the level road across 
the "happy Campania." An autumnal shower had laid 
the dust, and studded with glistening gems the garlands 
of vine which bordered the way, festooned, instead of 
hedges, from tree to tree. It was not long before she 
reached the gentle acclivity, for hill it could scarce be 
called, covered with box, arbutus, and laurels, relieved 
by tall tapering cypresses, amidst which shone the white 
walls of the large villa on the summit. A change, she 
perceived, had taken place, which at first she could not ex- 
actly define ; but when she had passed through the gate, 
the number of empty pedestals and niches reminded her, 
that the villa had entirely lost one of its most character- 
istic ornaments, — the number of beautiful statues which 
stood gracefully against the clipped evergreen hedges, and 
gave it the name, now become cpiite an empty one, of Ad 
Statuas* 

Chromatius, whom she had last seen limping with gout, 
now a hale old man, courteously received her, and inquired 
kindly after her father, asking if the report were true that 
he was going shortly to Asia. At this Fabiola seemed 
grieved and mortified ; for he had not mentioned his in- 
tention to her. Chromatius hoped it might be a false 
alarm, and asked her to take a stroll about the grounds. 
She found them kept with the same care as ever, full of 
beautiful plants; but still much missed the old statues. 
At last they reached a grotto with a fountain, in which 
formerly nymphs and sea-deities disported, but which now 
presented a black unbroken surface. She could contain her- 
self no longer, and, turning to Chromatius, she said : 
* " The Villa of Statues," or " at the Statues." 



106 

" Why, what on earth have you been doing 1 , Chromatius, 
to send away all your statues, and destroy the peculiar 
feature of your handsome villa? What induced you to do 
this?" 

" My dear j r oung lady," answered the good-humoured 
old gentleman, " do not be so angry. Of what use were 
those figures to any one ?" 

"If you thought so," replied she, "others might not. 
But tell me, what have you done with them all ?" 

" Why, to tell you the truth, I have had them brought 
under the hammer." 

" What ! and never let me know any thing about it 1 
You know there were several pieces I would most gladly 
have purchased." 

Chromatius laughed outright, and said, with that fami- 
liar tone, which acquaintance with Fabiola from a child 
authorised him always to assume with her : 

" Dear me ! how your young imagination runs away, 
far too fast for my poor old tongue to keep pace with ; I 
meant not the auctioneer's hammer, but the sledge-ham- 
mer. The gods and goddesses have been all smashed, 
pulverised ! If you happen to want a stray leg, or a hand 
minus a few fingers, perhaps I may pick up such a thing 
for you. But I cannot promise you a face with a nose, or 
a skull without a fracture." 

Fabiola was utterly amazed, as she exclaimed, " What 
an utter barbarian you have become, my wise old judg'e ! 
What shadow of reason can you give to justify so out- 
rageous a proceeding - ?" 

" Why, you see, as I have grown older, I have grown 
wiser ! and I have come to the conclusion that Mr. Jupiter 
and Mrs. Juno are no more gods than you or I ; so I sum- 
marily got rid of them." 

" Yes, that may be very well ; and I, though neither 
old nor wise, have been long of the same opinion. But 
why not retain them as mere works of art ?" 

" Because they had been set up here, not in that 
capacity, but as divinities. They were here as impostors, 
under false pretences ; and as you would turn out of your 
house, for an intruder, any bust or image found among 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 107 

those of your ancestors, but belonging to quite another 
family, so did I these pretenders to a higher connection 
with me, when I found it false. Neither could I run a 
risk, of their being bought for the continuance of the same 
imposture." 

" And pray, my most righteous old friend, is it not an 
imposture to continue calling - your villa Ad Statnas, after 
not a single statue is left standing- in it ?" 

" Certainly," replied Chromatius, amused at her sharp- 
ness, " and you will see that I have planted palm-trees all 
about ; and, as soon as they show their heads above the 
evergreens, the villa will take the title of Ad Palmas* 
instead." 

" That will be a pretty name," said Fabiola, who little 
thought of the higher sense of appropriateness which it 
would contain. She, of course, was not aware, that the 
villa was now a training-school, in which many were being 
prepared, as wrestlers or gladiators used to be, in separate 
institutions, for the great combat of faith, martyrdom to 
death. They who had entered in, and they who would go 
out, might equally say they were on their way to pluck 
the conqueror's palm, to be borne by them before God's 
judgment-seat, in token of their victory over the world. 
Many were the palm-branches shortly to be gathered in 
that early Christian retreat. 

But we must here give the history of the demolition 
of Chromatius's statues, which forms a peculiar episode in 
the " Acts of St. Sebastian." 

When Nicostratus informed him, as prefect of Rome, 
of the release of his prisoners, and of the recovery of 
Tranquillinus from gout by baptism. Chromatius, after 
making every inquiry into the truth of the fact, sent for 
Sebastian, and proposed to become a Christian, -as a means 
of obtaining" a cure of the same complaint. This of course 
could not be ; and another course was proposed, which 
would give him new and personal evidence of Christianity, 
without risking an insincere baptism. Chromatius was 
celebrated for the immense number of idolatrous images 
which he possessed ; and was assured by Sebastian, that, 
* " At" or " to the palms." 



108 

if he would have them all broken in pieces, he would at 
once recover. This was a hard condition; but he con- 
sented. His son Tiburtius, however, was furious, and pro- 
tested that if the promised result did not follow, he would 
have Sebastian and Polycarp thrown into a blazing- fur- 
nace : not perhaps so difficult a matter for the prefect's 
son. 

In one day, two hundred pagan statues were broken in 
pieces, including, of course, those in the villa, as well as 
those in the house at Rome. The images indeed were 
broken ; but Chromatius was not cured. Sebastian was sent 
for, and sharply rebuked. But he was calm and inflexible. 
" I am sure," he said, " that all have not been destroyed. 
Something- has been withheld from demolition." He 
proved right. Some small objects had been treated as 
works of art rather than religious things, and, like Achan's 
coveted spoil,* concealed. They were brought forth and 
broken up; and Chromatius instantly recovered. Not only 
was he converted, but his son Tiburtius became also one 
of the most fervent of Christians ; and, dying in glorious 
martyrdom, gave his name to a catacomb. He had begged 
to stay in Rome, to encourage and assist his fellow- 
believers, in the coming persecution, which his connection 
with the palace, his great courag-e and activity, would 
enable him to do. He had become, naturally, the great 
friend and frequent companion of Sebastian and Pan- 
cratius. 

After this little digression, we resume the conversation 
between Chromatius and Fabiola, who continued her last 
sentence, by adding, 

" But do you know, Chromatius — let us sit down in 
this lovely spot, where I remember there was a beautiful 
Bacchus — that all sorts of strange reports are going round 
the country, about your doings here V 

" Dear me ! What are they ? Do tell me." 

" Why, that you have a quantity of people living with 
you, whom nobody knows ; that you see no company, go 
out nowhere, and lead quite a philosophical sort of life, 
forming a most Platonic republic." 

* Jos. vii. 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 109 

" Highly flattered !" interrupted Chromatins, with a 
smile and bow. 

" But that is not all," continued Fabiola. " They 
say you keep most unfashionable hours, have no amuse- 
ments, and live most abstemiously; in fact, almost starve 
yourselves." 

" But I hope they do us the justice to add, that we 
pay our way ?" observed Chromatius. " They don't say, do 
they, that we have a long- score run up at the baker's or 
grocer's?" 

" Oh, no !" replied Fabiola, laughing. 

" How kind of them !" rejoined the good-humoured old 
judge. " They — the whole public I mean — seem to take 
a wonderful interest in our concerns. But is it not strange, 
my dear young lady, that so long as my villa was on the 
free-and-easy system, with as much loose talk, deep drink- 
ing, occasional sallies of youthful mirth, and troublesome 
freaks in the neighbourhood, as others, — I beg your par- 
don for alluding to such things; but, in fact, so long as I 
and my friends were neither temperate nor irreproachable, 
nobody gave himself the least trouble about us? But let 
a few people retire to live in quiet, be frugal, industrious, 
entirely removed from public affairs, and never even talk 
about politics or society, and at once there spring's up a 
vulgar curiosity to know all about them, and a mean pru- 
ritic in third-rate statesmen to meddle with them ; and 
there must needs fly about flocks of false reports and foul 
suspicions about their motives and manner of living. Is 
not this a phenomenon?" 

" It is, indeed; but how do you account for it?" 

" I can only do so by that faculty of little minds, which 
makes them always jealous of any aims higher than their 
own; so that, almost unconsciously, they depreciate what- 
ever they feel to be better than they dare aspire to." 

" But what is really your object and your mode of life 
here, my good friend ?" 

" We spend our time in the cultivation of our higher 
faculties. We rise frightfully early — I hardly dare tell 
you how early ; we then devote some hours to religious 
worship ; after which we occupy ourselves in a variety of 



110 

ways : some read, some write, some labour in the gar- 
dens; and I assure you no hired workmen ever toiled 
harder and better than these spontaneous agriculturists. 
We meet at different times, and sing beautiful songs to- 
gether, all breathing virtue and purity, and read most im- 
proving books, and receive oral instruction from eloquent 
teachers. Our meals are indeed very temperate ; we live 
entirely on vegetables ; but I have already found out that 
laughing is quite compatible with lentils, and that good 
cheer does not necessarily mean good fare." 

" Why you are turned complete Pythagoreans. I 
thought that was quite out of date. But it must be a 
most economical system," remarked Fabiola, with a know- 
ing- look. 

"Ha! you cunning thing !" answered the judge; "soyou 
really think that this may be a saving plan after all ? But 
it won't be, for we have taken a most desperate resolution." 

" And what on earth is that ?" asked the young lady. 

" Nothing less than this. We are determined that there 
shall not be such a thing as a poor person within our reach; 
this winter we will endeavour to clothe all the naked, and 
feed the hungry, and attend to all the sick about. All our 
economy will go for this." 

"It is indeed a very generous, though very new, idea 
in our times ; and no doubt you will be well laughed at 
for your pains, and abused on all sides. They will even 
say worse of you than they do now, if it were possible; 
but it is not." 

"How so?" 

" Do not be offended if I tell you ; but already they 
have gone so far as to hint, that possibly you are Christians. 
But this, I assure you, 1 have every where indignantly 
contradicted." 

Chromatius smiled, and said, "Why an indignant 
contradiction, my dear child ?" 

" Because, to be sure, I know you and Tiburtius, and 
Nicostratus, and that dear dumb Zoe, too well to admit, 
for a moment, that you had adopted the compound of 
stupidity and knavery called by that name." 

" Let me ask you one question. Have you taken the 



CH. XVI1.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. Ill 

trouble of reading- any Christian writings, by which you 
might know what is really held and done by that despised 
body?" 

"Oh, not I indeed; I would not waste my time over 
them ; I could not have patience to learn any thing- about 
them. I scom them too much, as enemies of all intellec- 
tual progress, as doubtful citizens, as credulous to the last 
degree, and as sanctioning every abominable crime, ever 
to give myself a chance of a nearer acquaintance with 
them." 

"Well, dear Fabiola, I thought just the same about 
them once, but I have much altered my opinion of late." 

" This is indeed strange ; since, as prefect of the city, 
you must have had to punish many of these wretched peo- 
ple, for their constant transgression of the laws." 

A cloud came over the cheerful countenance of the old 
man, and a tear stood in his eye. He thought of St. Paul, 
who had once persecuted the church of God. Fabiola saw 
the change, and was distressed. In the most affectionate 
manner she said to him, " I have said something very 
thoughtless I fear, or stirred up recollections of what must 
be painful to your kind heart. Forgive me, dear Chroma- 
tius, and let us talk of something* else. One purpose of my 
visit to you was, to ask you if you knew of any one going 
immediately to Eome. I have heard, from several quar- 
ters, of my father's projected journey, and I am anxious to 
write to him,* lest he repeat what he did before, — go 
without taking leave of me, to spare me pain." 

"Yes," replied Chromatius, "there is a young man 
starting early to-morrow morning. Come into the li- 
brary, and write your letter • the bearer is probably there." 

They returned to the house, and entered an apartment 
on the ground-floor, full of book-chests. At a table in the 
middle of the room a young man was seated, transcribing 
a large volume ; which, on seeing a stranger enter, he 
closed and put aside. 

"Torquatus," said Chromatius, addressing him, "this 
lady desires to send a letter to her father in Rome." 

* There was no post in those days, and persons wishing to send 
letters had to despatch an express, or find some opportunity. 



112 fabiola; or, 

" It will always give me great pleasure," replied the 
young man, " to serve the noble Fabiola, or her illustrious 
'father." 

" What, do you know them ?" asked the judge, rather 
surprised. 

" I had the honour, when very young, as my father 
had had before me, to be employed by the noble Fabius in 
Asia. Ill-health compelled me to leave his service." 

Several sheets of fine vellum, cut to a size, evidently 
for transcription of some book, lay on the table. One of 
these the good old man placed before the lady, with ink 
and a reed, and she wrote a few affectionate lines to her 
father. She doubled the paper, tied a thread round it, 
attached some wax to this, and impressed her seal, which 
she drew from an embroidered bag, upon the wax. Anxious, 
some time, to reward the messenger, when she could better 
know how, she took another piece of the vellum, and made 
on it a memorandum of his name and residence, and care- 
folly put this into her bosom. After partaking of some 
slight refreshment, she mounted her car, and bid Chro- 
matius an affectionate farewell. There was something 
touching-ly paternal in his look, as though he felt he should 
never see her again. So she thought ; but it was a very 
different feeling which softened his heart. Should she 
always remain thus ? Must he leave her to perish in ob- 
stinate ignorance ? Were that generous heart, and that 
noble intellect, to grovel on in the slime of bitter paganism, 
when every feeling and every thought in them seemed 
formed of strong yet finest fibres, across which truth might 
weave the richest web 1 It could not be ; and yet a thou- 
sand motives restrained him from an avowal, which he 
felt would, at present, only repulse her fatally from any 
nearer approach to the faith. " Farewell, my child," he 
exclaimed, " may you ■ be blessed a hundredfold, in ways 
which as yet you know not." He turned away his face, 
as he dropped her hand, and hastily withdrew. 

Fabiola too was moved by the mystery, as well as the 
tenderness, of his words ; but was startled, before reaching 
the gate, to find her chariot stopped by Torquatus. She 
was, at that moment, painfully struck by the contrast 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 113 

between the easy and rather familiar, though respectful, 
manner of the youth, and the mild gravity, mixed with 
cheerfulness, of the old ex-prefect. 

" Pardon this interruption, madam," he said, " but are 
you anxious to have this letter quickly delivered ?" 

" Certainly, I am most anxious that it should reach my 
father as speedily as possible." 

" Then I fear I shall hardly be able to serve you. I 
can only afford to travel on foot, or by chance and cheap 
conveyance, and I shall be some days upon the road." 

Fabiola, hesitating, said : " Would it be taking too 
great a liberty, if I should offer to defray the expenses of 
a more rapid journey ?" 

" By no means," answered Torquatus, rather eagerly, 
" if I can thereby better serve your noble house." 

Fabiola handed him a purse abundantly supplied, not 
only for his journey, but for an ample recompense. He 
received it with smiling readiness, and disappeared by a 
side alley. There was something in his manner which 
made a disagreeable impression ; she could not think he 
was fit company for her dear old friend. If Chromatius 
had witnessed the transaction, he would have seen a like- 
ness to Judas, in that eager clutching of the purse. Fabiola, 
however, was not sorry to have discharged, by a sum of 
money, once for all, any obligation, she mig"ht have con- 
tracted by making him her messenger;. She therefore drew 
out her memorandum to destroy it as useless, when she 
perceived that the other side of the vellum was written on ; 
as the transcriber of the book, which she saw put by, had 
just commenced its continuation on that sheet. Only a few 
sentences, however, had been written, and she proceeded 
to read them. Then for the first time she perused the fol- 
lowing words from a book unknown to her : 

" I say to you, love your enemies; do good to them that 
hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate 
you : that you may be the children of your Father who is 
in heaven, who maketh his sun to rise on the g'ood and the 
bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust."* 

We may imagine the perplexity of an Indian peasant 
* Matt. v. 44. 



114 FABIOLA: OR, 

who has picked up in a torrent's bed a white pellucid pebble, 
rough and dull outside, but where chipped, emitting' sparks 
of light; unable to decide whether he have become pos- 
sessed of a splendid diamond, or of a worthless stone, a 
thing to be placed on a royal crown, or trodden under a 
begg-ar's feet. Shall he put an end to his embarrassment 
by at once flinging it away, or shall he take it to a lapidary, 
ask its value, and perhaps be laughed at to his face 1 Such 
were the alternating feelings of Fabiola on her way home. 
" Whose can these sentences be ? No Greek or Roman 
philosopher's. They are either very false or very true, 
either sublime morality or base degradation. Does any one 
practise this doctrine, or is it a splendid paradox ? I will 
trouble myself no more on the subject. Or rather I will 
ask Syra about it ; it sounds very like one of her beautiful, 
but impracticable, theories. No; it is better not. She 
overpowers me by her sublime views, so impossible for 
me, though they seem easy to her. My mind wants rest. 
The shortest way is to get rid of the cause of my perplexity, 
and forget such harassing words. So here it goes to the 
winds, or to puzzle some one else, who may find it on the 
road-side. Ho ! Phormio, stop the chariot, and pick up 
that piece of parchment which I have dropped." 

The outrider obeyed, though he had thoug'ht the sheet 
deliberately flung out. It was replaced in Fabiola' s bosom : 
it was like a seal upon her heart ; for that heart was calm 
and silent till she reached home. 



CHAPTEK XVIII. 

TEMPTATION. 



Very early next morning a mule a,nd guide came to the 
door of Chromatius's villa. On it was packed a moderate 
pair of saddle-bags, the whole known property of Torqua- 
tus. Many friends were up to see him off, and receive from 
him the kiss of peace ere he departed. May it not prove 



CH. XVIII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 115 

like that of Gethsemani ! Some whispered a kind, soft word 
in his ear, exhorting- him to he faithful to the graces he 
had received; and he earnestly, and probahly sincerely, 
promised that he would. Others, knowing his poverty, 
put a little present into his hand, and entreated him to 
avoid his old haunts and acquaintances. Polycarp, how- 
ever, the director of the community, called him aside; 
and with fervent words, and flowing tears, conjured him to 
correct the irregularities, slight perhaps but threatening, 
which had appeared in his conduct, repress the levity which 
had manifested itself in his bearing, and cultivate more all 
Christian virtues. Torquatus, also with tears, promised 
obedience, knelt down, kissed the good priest's hand, and 
obtained his blessing; then received from him letters of 
recommendation for his journey, and a small sum for its 
moderate expenses. 

At length all was ready ; the last farewell was spoken, 
the last good wish expressed ; and Torquatus, mounted on 
his mule, with his guide at its bridle, proceeded slowly 
along" the straight avenue which led to the gate. Long- 
after every one else had re-entered the house, Chromatius 
was standing at the door, looking wistfully, with a moist 
eye, after him. It was just such a look as the Prodigal's 
father kept fixed on his departing son. 

As the villa was not on the high road, this modest 
quadrupedal conveyance had been hired to take him across 
the country to Fundi (now Fondi), as the nearest point 
where he could reach it. There he was to find what means 
he could, for prosecuting his journey. Fabiola's purse, how- 
ever, had set him very much at ease on that score. 

The road by which he travelled was varied in its beau- 
ties. Sometimes it wound along the banks of the Liris, 
gay with villas and cottages. Then it plunged into a 
miniature ravine, in the skirts of the Apennines, walled in 
by rocks, matted with myrtle, aloes, and the wild vine, 
amidst which white goats shone like spots of snow ; while 
beside the path gurgled, and wriggled on, a tiny brook, 
that seemed to have worked itself into the bright conceit 
that it was a mountain torrent ; so great was the bustle and 
ooise with which it pushed on, and pretended to foam, and 



116 FABWLA; OR, 

appeared to congratulate itself loudly on having achieved 
a waterfall by leaping down two stones at a time, and 
plunging- into an abyss concealed by a wide acanthus-leaf. 
Then the road emerged, to enjoy a wide prospect of the 
vast garden of Campania, with the blue bay of Cajeta, in 
the baokgTOund, speckled by the white sails of its craft, 
that looked at that distance like flocks of bright-plumed 
waterfowl, basking and fluttering - on a lake. 

What were the traveller's thoughts amidst these shift- 
ing scenes of a new act in his life's drama? did they 
amuse him '{ did they delight him 1 did they elevate him, 
or did they depress ? His eye scarcely noted them. It had 
run on far beyond them, to the shady porticoes and noisy 
streets of the capital. The dusty garden and the artificial 
fountain, the marble bath and the painted vault, were more 
beautiful in his eyes than fresh autumn vineyards, pure 
streams, purple ocean, and azure sky. He did not, of 
course, for a moment turn his thoug-hts towards its foul 
deeds and impious practices, its luxury, its debauchery, its 
profaneness, its dishonesties, its calumnies, its treacheries, 
its uncleannesses. Oh, no ! what would he, a Christian, 
have again to do with these ? Sometimes, as his mind 
became abstracted, it saw, in a dark nook of a hall in the 
Thermae, a table, round which moody but eager gamesters 
were casting - their knuckle-bone dice ; and he felt a quiver- 
ing creep over him of an excitement long suppressed ; but 
a pair of mild eyes, like Polycarp's, loomed on him from 
behind the table, and aroused him. Then he caught him- 
self, in fancy, seated at a maple board, with a ruby gem of 
Falernian wine, set in the rim of a golden goblet, and dis- 
course, ungirded by inebriety, going round with the cup ; 
when the reproving countenance of Chromatius would 
seem placed opposite, repelling with a scowl the approach 
of either. 

He was, in fact, returning only to the innocent enjoy- 
ments of the imperial city, to its walks, its music, its paint- 
ings, its magnificence, its beauty. He forgot that all 
these were but the accessories to a living and panting 
mass of human beings, whose passions they enkindled, 
whose evil desires they inflamed, whose ambition they 



CH. XVIII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 117 

fanned, whose resolutions they melted, and whose minds 
they enervated. Poor youth ! he thought he could walk 
through that fire, and not be scorched ! Poor moth ! he 
imagined he could fly through that flame, and have his 
wings unscathed ! 

It was in one of his abstracted moods that he journeyed 
through a narrow overhung defile, when suddenly he found 
himself at its opening, with an inlet of the sea before him, 
and in it one solitary and motionless skiff. The sight at 
once brought to his memory a story of his childhood, true 
or false, it mattered not ; but he almost fancied its scene 
was before him. 

Once upon a time there was a bold young fisherman 
living on the coast of southern Italy. One night, stormy 
and dark, he found that his father and brothers would not 
venture out in their tight and strong smack ; so he deter- 
mined, in spite of every remonstrance, to go alone in the 
little cockle-shell attached to it. It blew a gale, but he 
rode it out in his tiny buoyant bark, till the sun rose, warm 
and bright, upon a placid, glassy sea. Overcome by fa- 
tigue and heat, he fell asleep; but, after some time, was 
awakened by a loud shouting at a distance. He looked 
round, and saw the family -boat, the crew of which were 
crying aloud, and waving their hands to invite him back ; 
but they made no effort to reach him. What could they 
want? what could they mean? He seized his oars, and 
began to pull lustily towards them; but he was soon 
amazed to find that the fishing-boat, towards which he 
had turned the prow of his skiff, appeared upon his quar- 
ter ; and soon, thoug'h he righted his craft, it was on the 
opposite side. Evidently he had been making a circle; 
but the end came within its beginning, in a spiral curve, 
and now he was commencing another and a narrower one. 
A horrible suspicion flashed upon his mind : he threw off 
his tunic, and pulled like a madman at his oars. But 
though he broke the circle a bit here and a bit there, still 
round he went, and every time nearer to the centre, in 
which he could see a downward funnel of hissing and foam- 
ing water. Then, in despair, he threw down his oars, and 
standing, he flung up his arms frantically ; and a sea-bird 



118 FABIOLA; OR, 

screaming near, heard him cry out as loud as itself, " Cha- 
rybdis !"* And now the circle his boat went spinning 
round was only a few times longer than itself; and he cast 
himself flat down, and shut his ears and eyes with his 
hands, and held his breath, till he felt the waters gurgling 
above him, and he was whirled down into the abyss. 

" I wonder," Torquatus said to himself, " did any one 
ever perish in this way ? or is it a mere allegory ? — if so, 
of what? Can a person be drawn on gradually in this 
manner to spiritual destruction ? are my present thoughts, 
by any chance, an outer circle, which has caught me, 
and " 

" Fundi !" exclaimed the muleteer, pointing to a town 
before them; and presently the mule was sliding- along 
the broad flags of its pavement. 

Torquatus looked over his letters, and drew one out 
for the town. He was taken to a little inn of the poorest 
class, by his guide, who was paid handsomely, and retired 
swearing' and grumbling at the niggardliness of the tra- 
veller. He then inquired the way to the house of Cassia- 
nus, the schoolmaster, found it, and delivered his letter. 
He received as kind a welcome as if he had arrived at 
home ; joined his host in a frugal meal, during which he 
learned the master's history. 

A native of Fundi, he had started the school in Rome, 
with which we became acquainted at an early period of 
our history, and had proved eminently successful. But 
finding a persecution imminent, and his Christianity dis- 
covered, he had disposed of his school, and retired to his 
small native town, where he was promised, after the vaca- 
tion, the children of the principal inhabitants. In a fellow- 
Christian he saw nothing but a brother ; and as such he 
talked freely with him, of his past adventures and his 
future prospects. A strange idea dashed through the 
mind of Torquatus, that some day that information might 
be turned into money. 

It was still early when Torquatus took his leave, and, 
pretending to have some business in the town, he would 

* A whirlpool between Italy and Sicily. 



CH. XIX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 119 

not allow his host to accompany him. He bought him- 
self some more respectable apparel, went to the best inn, 
and ordered a couple of horses, with a postillion to accom- 
pany him; for, to fulfil Fabiola's commission, it was neces- 
sary to ride forward quick, change his horses at each relay, 
and travel through the night. He did so, till he reached 
Bovillae, on the skirts of the Alban hills. Here he rested, 
changed his travelling suit, and rode on gaily between 
the lines of tombs, which brought him to the gate of that 
city, within whose walls there was more of good and more 
of evil contained, than in any province of the empire. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE FALL. 

Torquatus, now elegantly attired, proceeded at once to 
the house of Fabius, delivered his letter, answered all in- 
quiries, and accepted, without much pressing, an invitation 
to supper that evening. He then went to seek a respect- 
able lodging, suited to the present state of his purse; and 
easily found one. 

Fabius, we have said, did not accompany his daughter 
into the country, and rarely visited her there. The fact 
was, that he had no love for green fields or running- brooks; 
his tastes were for the gossip and free society of Rome. 
During the year, his daughter's presence was a restraint 
on his liberty ; but when she was gone, with her estab- 
lishment, into Campania, his house presented scenes and 
entertained persons, that he would not have presumed to 
bring in contact with her. Men of profligate life sur- 
rounded his table ; and deep drinking till late hours, with 
gambling and loose conversation, generally followed his 
sumptuous entertainments. 

Having invited Torquatus to sup with him, he went 
forth in search of guests to meet him. He soon picked up 
a batch of sycophants, who were loitering about his known 
haunts, in readiness for invitations. But as he was saunter- 



120 

ing home from the baths of Titus, he saw two men in a 
small grove round a temple earnestly conversing together. 
After a moment's look, he advanced towards them ; but 
waited, at a small distance, for a pause in the dialogue, 
which was something to this effect. 

" There is no doubt, then, about the neWs ?" 

" None at all. It is quite certain that the people have 
risen at Nicomedia and burnt down the church, as they 
call it, of the Christians, close to, and in sight of, the 
palace. My father heard it from the emperor's secretary 
himself this morning." 

" What ever possessed the fools to go and build a 
temple, in one of the most conspicuous places of the metro- 
polis ? They must have known that, sooner or later, the 
religious spirit of the nation would rise against them and 
destroy the eye-sore, as every exhibition of a foreign re- 
ligion must be to an empire." 

" To be sure, as my father says, these Christians, if 
they had any wit in them, would hide their heads, and 
slink into corners, when they are so condescendingly tole- 
rated for a time by the most humane princes. But as 
they do not choose to do so, but will build temples in 
public instead of skulking* in by-lanes, as they used to do, 
I for one am not sorry. One may gain some notoriety, 
and profit too, by hunting these odious people down, and 
destroying them if possible." 

" Well, be it so; but to come to the purpose. It is 
understood between us, that when we can discover who 
are Christians among the rich, and not too powerful at first, 
there shall be a fair division. We will aid one another. 
You propose bold and rough means : I will keep my coun- 
sel as to mine. But each shall reap all the profit from 
those whom he discovers; and his right proportion from 
those who are shared between us. Is it not so?" 

" Exactly." 

Fabius now stepped forward, with a hearty " How are 
you, Fulvius? I have not seen you for an age; come and 
sup with me to-day, I have friends engaged; and your 
friend too, — Corvinus, I believe" (the gentleman alluded to 
made an uncouth bow), " will accompany you, I hope." 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 121 

" Thank you," replied Fulvius; " but I fear I have an 
engag-ement already." 

" Nonsense, man, " said the good-natured knight ; 
" there is nobody left in the city with whom you could 
sup, except myself. But has my house the plague, that 
you have never ventured into it, since you dined there with 
Sebastian, and quarrelled with him ? Or did you get 
struck by some magical charm, which has driven you 
away ?" 

Fulvius turned pale, and drew away Fabius to one 
side, while he said : " To tell the truth, something- very 
like it." 

" I hope," answered Fabius, somewhat startled, " that 
the black witch has been playing - no tricks with you ; I 
wish heartily she were out of my house. Biit, come," he 
continued in good humour, " I really thought you were 
struck by a better charm that evening. I have my eyes 
open ; I saw how your heart was fixed on my little cousin 
Agnes." 

Fulvius stared at him, with some amazement; and, after 
a pause, replied : " And if it was so, I saw that your 
daughter made up her mind, that no good should ever 
come out of it." 

" Say you so ? Then that explains your constant re- 
fusal to come to me again. But Fabiola is a philosopher, 
and understands nothing of such matters. I wish, indeed, 
she would give up her books, and think of settling herself 
in life, instead of preventing others. But I can give you 
better news than that ; Agnes is as much attached to you 
as you can be to her." 

" Is it possible 1 How can you happen to know it ?" 

" Why, then, to tell you what I should have told you 
long since, if you had not fought so shy of me, she con- 
fided it to me that very day." 

"To you?" 

" Yes, to me ; those jewels of yours quite won her 
heart. She told me as much. I knew she could only mean 
you. Indeed, I am sure she meant you." 

Fulvius understood these words of the rich gems which 
he displayed ; while the knight spoke of the jewels which 



122 fabiola; or, 

tie imagined Agnes had received. She had proved, Ful- 
vius was thinking - , an easy prize, in spite of her demure- 
ness ; and here lay fortune and rank open before him, if he 
could only manag-e his g-ame ; when Fabius thus broke in 
upon his dream, " Come now, you have only to press your 
suit boldly ; and I tell you, you will win it, whatever Fa- 
biola may think. But you have nothing; to fear from her 
now. She and all her servants are absent ; her part of the 
house is closed, and we enter by the back-door to the more 
enjoyable part of the establishment." 

" I will wait on you without fail," replied Fulvius. 
" And Corvinus with you," added Fabius, as he turned 
away. 

We will not describe the banquet further than to say, 
that wines of rare excellence flowed so plentifully, that al- 
most all the gmests got, more or less, heated and excited. 
Fulvius, however, for one, kept himself cool. 

The news from the East came into discussion. The 
destruction of the church at INicomedia had been followed 
by incendiary fires in the imperial palace. Little doubt 
could exist that the Emperor Galerius was their author ; 
but he charged them on the Christians; and thus goaded 
on the reluctant mind of Dioclesian to become their fiercest 
persecutor. Every one began to see that, before many 
months were over, the imperial edict to commence the work 
of destruction woidd reach Rome, and find in Maximian 
a ready executor. 

The guests were generally inclined to gore the stricken 
deer ; for generosity, in favour of those whom popular 
clamour hunts down, requires an amount of courage too 
heroic to be common. Even the most liberal found rea- 
sons for Christians being excepted from all kind considera- 
tion. One could not bear their mysteriousness, another 
was vexed at their supposed progTess ; this man thought 
them opposed to the real glory of the empire, that con- 
sidered them a foreign element, that oug'ht to be elimi- 
nated from it. One thought their doctrine detestable, 
another their practice infamous. During all this debate, 
if it could be so called, where both sides came to the same 
conclusion, Fulvius, after having glanced from one to 



CH. XIX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 123 

the other of the guests, had fixed his evil eye upon Tor- 
quatus. 

The youth was silent ; but his countenance, by turns, 
was pale and flushed. Wine had given him a rash courage, 
which some strong' principle restrained. Now he clenched 
his hand, and pressed it to his breast ; now he bit his lip. 
At one time he was crumbling the bread between his 
fingers; at another, he drank off, unconsciously, a cup of 
wine. 

" These Christians hate us, and would destroy us all if 
they could," said one. Torquatus leaned forward, opened 
his lips, but remained silent. 

" Destroy us, indeed ! Did they not burn Home, under 
Nero ; and have they not just set fire to the palace in Asia, 
over the emperor's head ?" asked a second. Torquatus rose 
upon his couch, stretched forth his hand, as if about to 
reply, but drew it back. 

" But what is infinitely worse is, their maintaining such 
anti-social doctrines, conniving - at such frightful excesses, 
and degrading themselves to the disgusting worship of an 
ass's head," proceeded a third. Torquatus now fairly 
writhed; and rising, had lifted his arm, when Fulvius, 
with a cool calculation of time and words, added, in bitter 
sarcasm : " Ay, and massacre a child, and devour his flesh 
and blood, at every assembly." * 

The arm descended on the table, with a blow that 
made every goblet and beaker dance and ring, as, in a 
choked voice, Torquatus exclaimed : " It is a lie ! a cursed 
He!" 

" How can you know that ? " asked Fulvius, with his 
blandest tone and look. 

" Because," answered the other, with great excite- 
ment, " I am myself a Christian; and ready to die for 
my faith!" 

If the beautiful alabaster statue, with a bronze head, 
in the niche beside the table, had fallen forward, and been 
smashed on the marble pavement, it could not have caused 
a more fearful sensation than this sudden announcement. 

* The heathen notion of the Blessed Eucharist. 



124 fabiola; or, 

All were startled for a moment. Next, a long blank pause 
ensued, after which, each began to show his feelings in his 
features. Fabius looked exceedingly foolish, as if con- 
scious that he had brought his guests into bad company. 
Calpurnius puffed himself out, evidently thinking himself 
ill-used, by having a guest broug'ht in, who might absurdly 
be supposed to know more about Christians than himself. 
A young man opened his mouth as he stared at Torquatus; 
and a testy old gentleman was evidently hesitating, whether 
he should not knock down somebody or other, no matter 
whom. Corvinus looked at the poor Christian with the 
sort of grin of delight, half idiotic, half savage, with which 
a countryman might gaze upon the vermin that he finds 
in his trap in a morning. Here was a man ready to hand, 
to put on the rack, or the gridiron, whenever he pleased. 
But the look of Fulvius was worth them all. If ever any 
microscopic observer has had the opportunity of witnessing 
the expression of the spider's features, when, after a long 
fast, it sees a fly, plump with others' blood, approach its 
net, and keenly watches every stroke of its wing, and 
studies how it can best throw only the first thread round 
it, sure that then all that gorges it shall be its own; that 
we fancy would be the best image of his looks, as certainly 
it is of his feelings. To get hold of a Christian, ready to 
turn traitor, had long been his desire and study. Here, 
he was sure, was one, if he could only manage him. How 
did he know this ? Because he knew sufficient of Chris- 
tians to be convinced, that no genuine one would have al- 
lowed himself either to drink to excess, or to boast of his 
readiness to court martyrdom. 

The company broke up ; every body slunk away from 
the discovered Christian, as from one pest-stricken. He 
felt alone and depressed, when Fulvius, who had whispered 
a word to Fabius, and to Corvinus, went up to him, and 
taking him by the hand said, courteously : " I fear, I 
spoke inconsiderately, in drawing out from you a declara- 
tion which may prove dangerous." 

" I fear nothing," replied Torquatus, again excited : 
" I will stand to my colours to the last." 

"Hush, hush!" broke in Fulvius, "the slaves may 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 125 

betray you. Come with me to another chamber, where 
we can talk quietly tog-ether." 

So saying, he led him into an eleg*ant room, where 
Fabius had ordered goblets and flagons of the richest 
Falernian wine to be brought, for such as, according to 
Roman fashion, liked to enjoy a commissatio, or drinking- 
bout. But only Corvinus, engaged by Fulvius, followed. 

On a beautifully inlaid table were dice. Fulvius, after 
plying Torquatus with more liquor, negligently took them 
up, and threw them playfully down, talking' in the mean 
time on indifferent subjects. "Dear me!'' he kept ex- 
claiming', " what throws ! It is well I am not playing' 
with any one, or I should have been ruined. You try, 
Torquatus." 

Gambling, as we learnt before, had been the ruin of 
Torquatus : for a transaction arising out of it he was in 
prison, when Sebastian converted him. As he took the 
dice into his hand, with no intention, as he thoug'ht, of 
playing, Fulvius watched him, as a lynx might its prey. 
Torquatus's eye flashed keenly, his lips quivered, his 
hand trembled. Fulvius at once recog-nised in all this, 
coupled with the poising - of his hand, the knowing cast of 
the wrist, and the sharp eye to the value of the throw, 
the violence of a first temptation to resume a renounced 
vice. 

" I fear you are not a better hand than I am at this 
stupid occupation," said he indifferently ■ " but, I dare say, 
Corvinus here will give you a chance, if you will stake 
something very low." 

" It must be very low indeed, — merely for recreation ; 
for I have renounced gambling. Once, indeed — but no 
matter." 

" Come on," said Corvinus, whom Fulvius had pressed 
to his work by a look. 

They began to throw for the most trifling stakes, and 
Torquatus generally won. Fulvius made him drink still, 
from time to time, and he became very talkative. 

" Corvinus, Corvinus," he said at length, as if recol- 
lecting himself, "was not that the name that Cassianus 
mentioned '.<"' 



126 



" Who ?" asked the other, surprised. 

" Yes, it was," continued Torquatus to himself, — " the 
bully, the big- brute. Were you the person," he asked, 
looking up to Corvinus, " who struck that nice Christian 
boy Pancratius ?" 

Corvinus was on the point of bursting into a rage ; but 
Fulvius checked him by a gesture, and said, with timely 
interference ; 

" That Cassianus whom you mentioned is an eminent 
schoolmaster ; pray, where does he live ?" 

This he knew his companion wished to ascertain • and 
thus he quieted him. Torquatus answered : 

" He lives, let me see, — no, no ; I won't turn traitor. 
No ; I am ready to be burnt, or tortured, or die for my 
faith ; but I won't betray any one, — that I wont." 

"Let me take your place, Corvinus," said Fulvius, 
who saw Torquatus' s interest in the game deepening. He 
put forth sufficient skill to make his antag-onist more care- 
ful, and more intent. He threw down a somewhat larger 
stake. Torquatus, after a moment's pause of deliberation, 
matched it. He won it. Fulvius seemed vexed. Tor- 
quatus threw back both sums. Fulvius seemed to hesi- 
tate, but put down an equivalent, and lost again. The 
play was now silent : each won and lost ; but Fulvius had 
steadily the advantage ; and he was the more collected of 
the two. 

Once Torquatus looked up, and started. He thought 
he saw the good Polycarp behind his adversary's chair. 
He rubbed his eyes, and saw it was only Corvinus staring 
at him. All his skill was now put forth. Conscience had 
retreated ; faith was wavering ; grace had already de- 
parted. For the demon of covetousness, of rapine, of dis- 
honesty, of recklessness, had come back, and brought with 
him seven spirits worse than himself, to that cleansed, but 
ill-guarded soul ; and as they entered in, all that was holy, 
all that was good, departed. 

At length, worked up, by repeated losses and draughts 
of wine, into a phrenzy, after he had drawn frequently 
upon the heavy purse which Fabiola had given him, he 
+ firew the purse itself upon the table. Fulvius coolly 



CH. XIX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 127 

opened it, emptied it, counted the money, and placed oppo- 
site an equal heap of gold. Each prepared himself for a 
final throw. The fatal bones fell ; each glanced silently 
upon their spots. Fulvius drew the money towards himself; 
Torquatus fell upon the table, his head buried and hidden 
within his arms. Fulvius motioned Corvinus out of the 
room. 

Torquatus beat the ground with his foot ; then moaned, 
next gnashed his teeth and growled ; then put his fingers 
in his hair, and began to pull and tear it. A voice whis- 
pered in his ear, " Are you a Christian ?" Which of the 
seven spirits was it '! surely the worst. 

" It is hopeless," continued the voice ; " you have dis- 
graced your religion, and you have betrayed it too." 

" No, no," groaned the despairing wretch. 

" Yes ; in your drunkenness you have told us all : 
quite enough to make it impossible for you ever to return 
to those you have betrayed." 

" Begone, begone," exclaimed piteously the tortured 
sinner. " They will forgive me still. God" 

" Silence ; utter not His name : you are degraded, 
perjured, hopelessly lost. You are a beggar ; to-morrow 
you must beg - your bread. You are an outcast, a ruined 
prodigal and g'amester. Who will look at you ? will your 
Christian friends? And nevertheless you are a Christ- 
ian ; you will be torn to pieces by some cruel death for it ; 
yet you "will not be worshipped by them as one of their 
martyrs. You are a hypocrite, Torquatus, and nothing 
more." 

" Who is it that is tormenting me ?" he exclaimed, 
and looked up. Fulvius was standing with folded arms 
at his side. " And if all this be true, what is it to you 1 
What have you to say more to me '?" he continued. 

" Much more than you think. You have betrayed 
yourself into my power completely. I am master of your 
money" — (and he showed him Fabiola's purse) — " of your 
character, of your peace, of your life. I have only to let 
your fellow-Christians know what you have done, what 
you have said, what you have been to-night, and you dare 
not face them. I have only to let that 'bully — that big 



128 

brute,' as you called him, but who is son of the prefect of 
the city, loose upon you, (and no one else can now restrain 
him after such provocation), and to-morrow you will be 
standing- before his father's tribunal to die for that religion 
which you have betrayed and disgraced. Are you ready 
nam, any long-er to reel and stagger as a drunken gambler, 
to represent your Christianity before the judgment-seat in 
the Forum?" 

The fallen man had not courage to follow the prodigal 
in repentance, as he had done in sin. Hope was dead in 
him ; for he had relapsed into his capital sin, and scarcely 
felt remorse. He remained silent, till Fulvius aroused 
him by asking, " Well, have you made your choice; either 
to go at once to the Christians with to-night on your head, 
or to-morrow to the court.'' Which do you choose?" 

Torquatus raised his eyes to him, with a stolid look, 
and faintly answered, " Neither." 

" Come, then, what will you do?" asked Fulvius, mas- 
tering - him with one of his falcon glances. 

" What you like," said Torquatus, " only neither of 
those things." 

Fulvius sat down beside him, and said, in a soft and 
soothing voice, " Now, Torquatus, listen to me ; do as I 
tell you, and all is mended. You shall have house, and 
food, and apparel, ay, and money to play with, if you will 
only do my bidding." 

" And what is that ?" 

"Rise to-morrow as usual; put on your Christian face; 
go freely among your friends; act as if nothing had hap- 
pened ; but answer all my questions, tell me every thing." 

Torquatus groaned, "A traitor at last !" 

" Call it what you will; that or death ! Ay, death by 
inches. I hear Corvinus pacing impatiently up and down 
the court. Quick! which is it to be ?" 

" Not death ! Oh, no ! any thing but that !" 

Fulvius went out, and found his friend fuming - with 
rage and wine ; he had hard work to pa city him. Corvi- 
nus had almost forgotten Cassianus in fresher resentments; 
but all his former hatred had been rekindled, and he 
burnt for revenge. Fulvius promised to find out where he 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 129 

lived, and used this means to secure the suspension of any 
violent and immediate measure. 

Having- sent Corvinus sulky and fretting' home, he re- 
turned to Torquatus, whom he wished to accompany, that 
he might ascertain his lodgings. As soon as he had left 
the room, his victim had arisen from his chair, and endea- 
voured, by walking up and down, to steady his senses and 
regain self-possession. But it was in vain ; his head was 
swimming from his inebriety, and his subsequent excite- 
ment. The apartment seemed to turn round and round, 
and float up and down; he was sick too, and his heart was 
beating almost audibly. Shame, remorse, self-contempt, 
hatred of his destroyers and of himself, the desolateness of 
the outcast, and the black despair of the reprobate, rolled 
like dark billows through his soul, each coming- in turn 
uppermost. Unable to sustain himself longer on his feet, 
he threw himself on his face upon a silken couch, and 
buried his burning brow in his icy hands, and groaned. 
And still all whirled round and round him, and a constant 
moaning sounded in his ears. 

Fulvius found him in this state, and touched his shoul- 
der to rouse him. Torquatus shuddered, and was con- 
vulsed ; then exclaimed : " Can this be Charybdis ?" 



K 



PART SECOND. 
Conflict 




CHAPTER I. 



nte 




p HE scenes through which we have hitherto 
led our reader have been laid in one of those 
slippery truces, rather than peace, which 
often intervened between persecution and per- 
secution. Already rumours of war have crossed our path, 
and its note of preparation has been distinctly heard. The 
roar of the lions near the Amphitheatre, which startled but 
dismayed not Sebastian, the reports from the East, the 

* " Diogenes, the excavator, deposited in peace, eight days before 
the first of October." — From St. Sebastian's. Boldetti, i. 15, p. 60. 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 131 

hints of Fulvius, and the threats of Corvinus, have brought 
us the same news, that before long the horrors of persecu- 
tion will re-appear, and Christian blood will have to flow, 
in a fuller and nobler stream than had hitherto watered 
the Paradise of the New Law. The Church, ever calmly- 
provident, cannot neglect the many signs of a threatened 
combat, nor the preparations necessary for meeting it. 
From the moment she earnestly begins to arm herself, we 
date the second period of our narrative. It is the com- 
mencement of conflict. 

It was towards the end of October that a young man, 
not unknown to us, closely muflled up in his cloak, for it 
was dark and rather chill, might be seen threading his 
way through the narrow alleys of the district called the 
Suburra ; a region, the extent and exact position of which 
is still under dispute, but which lay in the immediate 
vicinity of the Forum. As vice is unfortunately too often 
linked with poverty, the two found a common asylum here. 
Pancratius did not seem much at home in this part of the 
city, and made several wrong- turns, till at length he found 
the street he was in search of. Still, without numbers on 
the doors, the house he wanted was an unsolved problem ; 
although not quite insoluble. He looked for the neatest 
dwelling in the street; and being particularly struck with 
the cleanliness and good order of one beyond the rest, he 
boldly knocked at its door. It was opened by an old man, 
whose name has already appeared in our pages, Diogenes. 
He was tall and broad-shouldered, as if accustomed to bear 
burdens, which, however, had given him a stoop in his 
gait. His hair was a perfect silver, and hung down at the 
sides of a large massive head ; his features were strongly 
marked in deep melancholy lines, and though the expres- 
sion of his countenance was calm, it was solemnly sad. He 
looked like one who had lived much among the dead, and 
was happiest in their company. His two sons, Majus and 
Severus, fine athletic youths, were with him. The first 
was busy carving, or scratching rather, a rude epitaph on 
an old slab of marble, the reverse of which still bore traces 
of a heathen sepulchral inscription, rudely effaced by its 
new possessor. Pancratius looked over the work in hand 



132 fabiola; or, 

and smiled ; there was hardly a word rightly spelt, or a 
part of speech correct ; indeed, here it is, 

DE BIANOBA 
POLLECLA QVE ORDEV BENDET DE BIANOBA.' 

The other son was making' a rough design, in which could 
be distinguished Jonas devoured by the whale, and Lazarus 
raised from the dead, both most conventionally drawn with 
charcoal on a board ; a sketch evidently for a more perma- 
nent painting elsewhere. Further, it was clear, that when 
the knock came to the door, old Diogenes was busy fitting 
a new handle to an old pick-axe. These varied occupa- 
tions in one family mig'ht have surprised a modern, but 
they did not at all the youthful visitor ; he well knew that 
the family belonged to the honourable and religious craft 
of the Fossores, or excavators of the Christian cemeteries. 
Indeed, Diogenes was the head, and director of that con- 
fraternity. In conformity with the assertion of an anony- 
mous writer, contemporary with St. Jerome, some modern 
antiquarians have considered the fossor as forming a lesser 
ecclesiastical order in the primitive Church, like the lector, 
or reader. But although this opinion is untenable, it is 
extremely probable that the duties of this office were in 
the hands of persons appointed and recognised by ecclesias- 
tical authority. The uniform system pursued in excavating, 
arranging, and filling up of the numerous cemeteries round 
Rome, a system too, so complete from the beginning 1 , as not 
to leave positive signs of improvement or change as time 
went on, gives us reason to conclude, that these wonderful 
and venerable works were carried on under one direction, 
and probably by some body associated for that purpose. 
It was not a cemetery or necropolis company, which made 
a speculation of burying the dead, but rather a pious and 
recognised confraternity, which was associated for the 
purpose. 

A series of interesting inscriptions, found in the ceme- 
tery of St. Ag-nes, proves that this occupation was con- 
tinued in particular families ; grandfather, father, and sons, 

* " From New Street. Polleela, who sells barley in New Street." 
Found in the cemetery of Callistus. 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 133 

having- carried it on in the same place.* We can thus 
easily understand the great skill, and uniformity of practice 
observable in the catacombs. But the J'ossores had evi- 
dently a higher office, or even jurisdiction, in that under- 
ground world. Thoug-h the Church provided space for the 
burial of all her children, it was natural that some should 
make compensation for their place of sepulture, if chosen 
in a favourite spot, such as the vicinity of a martyr's tomb. 
These sextons had the management of such transactions, 
which are often recorded in the ancient cemeteries. The 
following inscription is preserved in the Capitol : 

EMPTV LOCVM AB ARTEMISIVM VISOMVM HOC EST 

ET PRAETIVM DATVM FOSSORI HILARO IDEST 
FOL NOOD PRAESENTIA SEVERI FOSS ET LAVRENTI. 

That is— 

" This is the grave for two bodies, bought by Artemisius ; and 

the price was given to the Fossor Hilarus, — that is, purses f 

In the presence of Severus the Fossor and Laurentius." 

Possibly the last-named was the witness on the purchaser's 
side, and Severus on the seller's. However this may be, 
we trust we have laid before our readers all that is known 
about the profession, as such, of Diogenes and his sons. 

We left Pancratius amused at Majus's rude attempts in 
glyptic art ; his next step was to address him. 

" Do you always execute these inscriptions yourself ?" 

" Oh, no," answered the artist, looking- up and smiling, 
" I do them for poor people, who cannot afford to pay a 
better hand. This was a good woman who kept a small 
shop in the Vianova, and you may suppose did not be- 
come rich, especially as she was very honest. And yet a 
curious thought struck me as I was carving her epitaph." 

" Let me hear it, Majus." 

" It was, that perhaps some thousand years hence or 
more, Christians might read with reverence my scratches 
on the wall, and hear of poor old Pollecla and her barley- 
stall with interest, while the inscription of not a single em- 

* Given by F. Marchi in his Architecture of Subterranean Chris- 
tian Rome, 1844; a work on which we will freely draw. 

•f The number, unfortunately, is not intelligible, being in cipher. 



134 FABIOLA; OR, 

peror, wlio persecuted the Church, would be read or even 
known." 

" Well, I can hardly imagine that the superb mauso- 
leums of sovereigns will fall to utter decay, and yet the 
memory of a market-wife descend to distant ages. But 
what is your reason for thinking thus ?" 

" Simply because I would sooner commit to the keep- 
ing- of posterity the memory of the pious poor than that of 
the wicked rich. And my rude record may possibly be 
read when triumphal arches have been demolished. It's 
dreadfully written though, is it not ?" 

" Never mind that ; its simplicity is worth much fine 
writing. What is that slab leaning against the wall ?" 

" Ah, that is a beautiful inscription brought us to put 
up; you will see the writer and engraver were different 
people. It is to go to the cemetery at the Lady Agnes's 
villa, on the Nomentan way. I believe it is in memory of 
a most sweet child, whose death is deeply felt by his vir- 
tuous parents." Pancratius took a light to it, and read as 
follows : 



AIONYCIOCNHTIIOC 

AKAxoeeNeAAaei 

TeUCTATCwNA 

wre^WrocKAimwji 

TPc .„ 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OP THE CATACOMBS. 135 

" The innocent boy Dionysius lieth here among the saints. 
Remember us in your holy prayers, the writer and the engraver." 

" Dear, happy child !" continued Pancratius, when he 
had perused the inscription : " add me the reader, to the 
writer and carver of thine epitaph, in thy holy prayers." 

" Amen," answered the pious family. 

But Pancratius, attracted by a certain husky sound 
in Diogenes's voice, turned round, and saw the old man 
vigorously trying to cut off the end of a little wedge which 
he had driven into the top of the handle of his pick-axe, to 
keep it fast in the iron ; But every moment baffled by some 
defect in his vision, which he removed by drawing the 
back of his brawny hand across his eyes. " What is the 
matter, my good old friend?" said the youth kindly. 
" Why does this epitaph of young- Dionysius particularly 
affect you ?" 

" It does not of itself; but it reminds me of so much 
that is past, and suggests so much that may be about to 
come, that I feel almost faint to think of either." 

" What are your painful thoughts, Diogenes ?" 

" Why, do you see, it is all simple enough to take into 
one's arms a good child like Dionysius, wrapped in his 
cerecloth, fragrant with spices, and lay him in his grave. 
His parents may weep, but his passage from sorrow to joy 
was easy and sweet. It is a very different thing, and re- 
quires a heart as hardened as mine by practice" (another 
stroke of the hand across the eyes) " to gather up hastily 
the torn flesh and broken limbs of such another youth, to 
wrap them hurriedly in their winding-sheet, then fold them 
into another sheet full of lime, instead of balsams, and shove 
them precipitately into their tomb.* How differently one 
would wish to treat a martyr's body !" 

" True, Diogenes ; but a brave officer prefers the plain 

* In the cemetery of St. Agnes, pieces of lime have been found 
in tombs forming exact moulds of different parts of the body, with 
the impression of a finer linen inside, and a coarser outside. As to 
spices and balsams, Tertullian observes that " the Arabs and Sabseans 
well know that the Christians annually consume more for their dead 
than the heathen world did for its gods." 



136 



FABIOLA* OR, 



soldier's g*rave, on the field of battle, to the carved sarco- 
phagus on the Via Appia. But are such scenes as you 
describe common, in times of persecution ?" 

" By no means uncommon, my good young* master. 
I am sure a pious youth like you must have visited, on his 
anniversary, the tomb of Restitutus in the cemetery of 
Hermes." 

" Indeed I have, and often have I been almost jealous 
of his early martyrdom. Did you bury him V 

" Yes ; and his parents had a beautiful tomb made, 
the arcosolmm of his crypt.* My father and I made it of 
six slabs of marble, hastily collected, and I engraved the 
inscription now beside it. I think I carved better than 
Majus there," added the old man, now quite cheerful. 

" That is not saying* much for yourself, father," re- 
joined his son no less smiling • " but here is the copy of 
the inscription which you wrote," he added, drawing out a 
parchment from a number of sheets. 

" I remember it perfectly," said Pancratius, glancing 
over it, and reading it as follows, correcting the errors in 
orthography, but not those in grammar, as he read : 



AELIO FABIO RESTVTO 
FILIO PIISSIMO PARI N 
TES FECERVNT QVIVI 
XIT ANNI.S XVIII MENS 
VII IIMIREIME. 



" To JElius Fabius Restitutus, their most pious son, his parents 
erected (this tomb). "Who lived eighteen years and seven months. 
In peace." 

He continued : " What a glorious youth, to have con- 
fessed Christ at such an age !" 



* These terms will be explained later. 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 137 

" No doubt," replied the old man ; " but I dare say 
you have always thought that his body reposes alone in 
his sepulchre. Any one would think so from the inscrip- 
tion." 

" Certainly I have always thought so. Is it other- 
wise?" J 

" Yes, noble Pancratius, he has a comrade young-er 
than himself lying in the same bed. As we were closing* 
the tomb of Restitutus, the body of a boy not more than 
twelve or thirteen years old was brought to us. Oh, I 
shall never forget the sight ! He had been hung over a 
fire, and his head, trunk, and limbs nearly to the knees, 
were burnt to the very bone ; and so disfigured was he, 
that no feature could be recog-nised. Poor little fellow, 
what he must have suffered ! But why should I pity him? 
Well, we were pressed for time; and we thought the 
youth of eighteen would not grudg-e room for his fellow- 
soldier of twelve, but would own him for a younger bro- 
ther ; so we laid him at iElius Fabius's feet. But we had 
no second phial of blood to put outside, that a second martyr 
might be known to lie there; for the fire had dried his 
blood up in his veins."* 

" What a noble boy ! If the first was older, the second 
was younger than I. What say you, Diogenes, don't you 
think it likely you may have to perform the same oflice 
for me one of these days ?" 

" Oh, no, I hope not," said the old digger, with a re- 
turn of his husky voice. " Do not, I entreat you, allude 
to such a possibility. Surely my own time must come 
sooner. How the old trees are spared, indeed, and the 
young plants cut down !'' 

* On the 22d of April, 1823, this tomb was discovered unviolated. 
On being opened, the bones, white, bright, and polished as ivory, 
were found, corresponding „o the framework of a youth of eighteen. 
At his head was the phial of blood. With the head to his feet was 
the skeleton of a boy, of twelve or thirteen, black and charred 
chiefly at the head and upper parts, down to the middle of the thigh- 
bones, from which to the p eet the bones gradually whitened. The 
two bodies, richly clothed, repose side by side under the altar of tho 
Jesuits' college at Loreto. 



138 

" Come, come, my good friend, I won't afflict you. 
But I have almost forgotten to deliver the message I came 
to hring. It is, that to-morrow at dawn, you must come 
to my mother's house, to arrange about preparing the ce- 
meteries, for our coming troubles. Our holy Pope will be 
there, with the priests of the titles, the regionary deacons, 
the notaries, whose number has been filled up, and you, the 
head fossor, that all may act in concert." 

" I will not fail, Pancratius," replied Diogenes. 

" And now," added the youth, " I have a favour to 
ask you." 

" A favour from me ?" asked the old man, surprised. 

" Yes ; you will have to begin your work immediately, 
I suppose. Now, often as I have visited, for devotion, our 
sacred cemeteries, I have never studied or examined them ; 
and this I should like to do with you, who know them so 
well." 

" Nothing would give me greater pleasure," answered 
Diogenes, somewhat flattered by the compliment, but still 
more pleased by this love for what he so much loved. 
" After I have received my instructions, I shall go at once 
to the cemetery of Callistus. Meet me out of the Porta 
Capena, half an hour before mid-day, and we will go on 
together." 

" But I shall not be alone," continued Pancratius. 
" Two youths, recently baptised, desire much to become 
acquainted with our cemeteries, which they do not yet 
much know ; and have asked me to initiate them there." 

' ' Any friends of yours will be always welcome. What 
are their names, that we may make no mistake ?" 

" One is Tiburtius, the son of Chromatius, the late 
prefect ; the other is a young man named Torquatus." 

Severus started a little, and said : " Are you quite sure 
about him, Pancratius 1" 

Diogenes rebuked him, saying, " That he comes to us 
in Pancratius's company is security enough." 

" I own," interposed the youth, " that I do not know 
as much about him as about Tiburtius, who is really a gal- 
lant, noble fellow. Torquatus is, however, very anxious 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 139 

to obtain all information about our affairs, and seems in 
earnest. What makes you fear, Severus ?" 

" Only a trifle, indeed. But as I was going early to 
the cemetery this morning, I turned into the Baths of 
Antoninus." * 

" What !" interrupted Pancratius, laughing, " do you 
frequent such fashionable resorts 1" 

" Not exactly," replied the honest artist ; " but you 
are not perhaps aware that Cucumio the capsariusf and 
his wife are Christians ?" 

" Is it possible ? where shall we find them next ?" 

" Well, so it is ; and moreover they are making a tomb 
for themselves in the cemetery of Callistus ; and I had to 
show them Majus's inscription for it." 

" Here it is," said the latter, exhibiting it, as follows : 

CVCVMIO ET VICTORIA 

SE VIVOS FECERVNT 

CAPSARARIVS DE ANTOMINIANAS.t 

" Capital !" exclaimed Pancratius, amused at the blun- 
ders in the epitaph ; " but we are forgetting Torquatus." 

" As I entered the building', then," said Severus, " I 
was not a little surprised to find in one corner, at that 
early hour, this Torquatus in close conversation with the 
present prefect's son, Corvinus, the pretended cripple, who 
thrust himself into Agnes's house, you remember, when 
some charitable unknown person (God bless him !) gave 
large alms to the poor there. Not good company I 
thought, and at such an hour, for a Christian." 

" True, Severus," returned Pancratius, blushing deeply; 



* Better known as Caracella's. 

f The person who had charge of the bathers' clothes, from 
capsa, a chest. 

J " Cucumio and Victoria made (the tomb) for themselves while 
living. Capsarius of the Antonine" (baths). Found in the ceme- 
tery of Callistus, first published by IT. Marchi, who attributes it, 
erroneously, to the cemetery of Prsetextatus. 



140 



fabiola; or, 



"but he is young as yet in the faith, and probablv his 
old friends do not know of his change. We will hope for 
the best." 

The two young- men offered to accompany Pancratius, 
who rose to leave, and see him safe through the poor and 
profligate neighbourhood. He accepted their courtesy 
with pleasure, and bade the old excavator a hearty good 
night. 



CHAPTER H. 











M. ANTONI 
VS . RESTVTV 
S. FECIT. YPO 
CEVSIBI . ET 
SVIS . FIDENT1 
BVS . IN . DOMINO 











It seems to us as though we had neglected one, whose 
character and thoughts opened this little history, the pious 
Lucina. Her virtues were indeed of that quiet, unobtru- 
sive nature, which affords little scope for appealing on a 
EMic scene, or taking part in general affairs. Her house, 
ides being, or rather containing, a title or parochial 
church, was now honoured by being the residence of the 
supreme Pontiff. The approach of a violent persecution, 

* " Marcus Antonius Restitutus made this subterranean for 
himself and his family, that trust in the Lord. ' Lately found in 
the cemetery of SS. Sereus and Achillens. It is singular that in 
the inscription of the martyr Restitutus, given in the last chapter, 
as in this, a syllable should be omitted in the name, one easily 
slurred in pronouncing it. 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 141 

in which the rulers of Christ's spiritual kingdom were sure 
to be the first sought out, as the enemies of Caesar, ren- 
dered it necessary to transfer the residence of the Ruler of 
the Church, from his ordinary dwelling, to a securer asy- 
lum. For this purpose Lucina's house was chosen ; and it 
continued to he so occupied, to her great delight, in that 
and the following pontificate, when the wild beasts were 
ordered to be transferred to it, that Pope Marcellus might 
feed them at home. This loathsome punishment soon 
caused his death. 

Lucina admitted, at forty,* into the order of deacon- 
nesses, found plenty of occupation in the duties of her 
office. The charg - e and supervision of the women in 
church, the care of the sick and poor of her own sex, the 
making, and keeping in order of sacred vestments and 
linen for the altar, and the instruction of children and 
female converts preparing for baptism, as well as the at- 
tending them at that sacred rite, belonged to the deacon- 
nesses, and gave sufficient occupation in addition to do- 
mestic offices. In the exercise of both these classes of 
duties, Lucina quietly passed her life. Its main object 
seemed to be attained. Her son had offered himself' to 
God ; and lived ready to shed his blood for the faith. To 
watch over him, and pray for him, were he* delight, rather 
than an additional employment. 

Early in the morning of the appointed day, the meet- 
ing mentioned in our last chapter took place. It will be 
sufficient to say, that in it full instructions were given for 
increasing the collection of alms, to be employed in enlarg- 
ing the cemeteries and burying' the dead, in succouring 
those driven to concealment by persecution, in nourishing 
prisoners, and obtaining- access to them, and finally in 
ransoming or rescuing- the bodies of martyrs. A notary 
was named for each region, to collect their acts and record 
interesting events. The cardinals, or titular priests, re- 
ceived instructions about the administration of sacraments, 
particularly of the Holy Eucharist, during the persecution ; 
and to each was intrusted one cemetery or more, in whose 

* Sixty was the full age, but admission was given sometimes at 
forty. 



142 fabiola; or, 

subterranean church he was to perform the sacred mys- 
teries. The holy Pontiff chose for himself that of Callistus, 
which made Diogenes, its chief sexton, not a little, but 
innocently, proud. 

The good old excavator seemed rather more cheery 
than otherwise, under the exciting- forebodings of a coming 
persecution. No commanding officer of engineers coidd 
have given his orders more briskly, or more decidedly, for 
the defence of a fortified city committed to his skill to 
guard, than he issued his to the subordinate superintendents 
of the various cemeteries round Rome, who met him by 
appointment at his own house, to learn the instructions 
of the superior assembly. The shadow of the sun-dial at 
the Porta Capena was pointing to mid-day, as he issued 
from it with his sons, and found already waiting - the three 
young men. They walked in parties of two along the 
Appian road; and at nearly two miles from the gate,* 
they entered by various ways (slipping round different 
tombs that lined the road) into the same villa on the right- 
hand. Here they found all the requisites for a descent 
into the subterranean cemeteries, such as candles, lanterns, 
and the instruments for procuring light. Severus proposed 
that, as the guides and the strangers were in equal number, 
they should be divided into pairs ; and in the division he 
allotted Torquatus to himself. What his reason was we 
may easily conjecture. 

It would probably weary our readers to follow the 
whole conversation of the party. Diog'enes not only an- 
swered all questions put to him, but, from time to time, 
gave intelligent httle lectures, on such objects as he con- 
sidered peculiarly attractive. But we believe we shall 
better interest and inform our friends, if we digest the 
whole matter of these into a more connected narrative. 
And besides, they will wish to know something of the 
subsequent history of those wonderful excavations, into 
which we have conducted our youthful pdgrims. 

The history of the early Christian cemeteries, the Cata- 

* Now St. Sebastian's. The older Porta Capena was nearly a 
mile within the present. 



3H. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 143 

combs as they are commonly called, may be divided into 
three portions : from their beginning' to the period of our 
narrative, or a few years later; from this term to the 
eighth century; then down to our own time, when we have 
reason to hope that a new epoch is being- commenced. 

We have generally avoided using the name of cata- 
combs, because it might mislead our readers into an idea 
that this was either the original or a generic name of those 
early Christian crypts. It is not so, however : Rome 
mig-ht be said to be surrounded by a circumvallation of 
cemeteries, sixty or thereabouts in number, each of which 
was g-enerally known by the name of some saint or saints, 
whose bodies reposed there. Thus we have the cemeteries 
of SS. Nereus and Achilleus, of St. Agnes, of St. Pan- 
cratius, of Prsetextatus, Priscilla, Hermes, &c. Sometimes 
these cemeteries were known by the names of the places 
where they existed.* The cemetery of St. Sebastian, which 
was called sometimes Ccemeterium ad Sanctam Cceciliam } f 
and by other names, had among- them that of Ad C'ata- 
cumbas.% The meaning- of this word is completely un- 
known; thoug-h it may be attributed to the circumstance 
of the relics of SS. Peter and Paul having- been for a time 
buried there, in a crypt still existing near the cemetery. 
This term became the name of that particular cemetery, 
then was g-eneralised, till we familiarly call the whole sys- 
tem of these underground excavations — the Catacombs. 

Their origin was, in the last century, a subject of con- 
troversy. Following- two or three vague and equivocal 
passages, some learned writers pronounced the catacombs 
..o have been originally heathen excavations, made to ex- 
tract sand, for the building of the city. These sand-pits 
were called arenaria, and so occasionally are the Christian 
cemeteries. But a more scientific and minute examina- 
tion, particularly made by the accurate F. Marchi, has 
completely confuted this theory. The entrance to the 
catacombs was often, as can yet be seen, from these sand- 

* As Ad Nymphas, Ad Ursum pileatum, Inter duas lauros, Ad 
Sextum Philippi, &c. 

f The cemetery at St. Csecilia's tomb. 

* Formed apparently of a Greek preposition and a Latin verb. 



144 FABIOLA; OR, 

pits, which are themselves underground, and no doubt 
were a convenient cover for the cemetery ; but several cir- 
cumstances prove that they were never used for Christian 
burial, nor converted into Christian cemeteries. 

The man who wishes to get the snnd out of the ground 
will keep his excavation as near as may be to the surface ; 
will have it of easiest possible access, for drawing- out 
materials ; and will make it as ample as is consistent with 
the safety of the roof, and the supply of what he is seeking. 
And all this we find in the arenari,-, tcill abounding round 
Rome. But the catacombs are constructed on principles 
exactly contrary to all these. 

The catacomb dives at once, generally by a steep flight 
of steps, below the stratum of loose and friable sand,* into 
that wbere it is indurated to the hardness of a tender, 
but consistent rock ; on the surface of which every stroke 
of the pick-axe is yet distinctly traceable. When you 
have reached this depth you are in the first story of the 
cemetery, for you descend again by stairs, to the second 
and third below, all constructed on the same principle. 

A catacomb may be divided into three parts, its pas- 
sages or streets, its chambers or squares, and its churches. 
The passages are long, narrow galleries, cut with tolerable 
regularity, so that the roof and floor are at right angles 
with the sides, often so narrow as scarcely to allow two 
persons to go abreast. They sometimes run quite straight 
to a great length ; but they are crossed by others, and 
these ag'ain by others, so as to form a complete labyrinth, 
or net-work, of subterranean corridors. To be lost among 
them would easily be fatal. 

But these passages are not constructed, as the name 
would imply, merely to lead to something else. They are 
themselves the catacomb or cemetery. Their walls, as 
well as the sides of the staircases, are honeycombed with 
graves, that is, with rows of excavations, large and small, 
of sufficient length to admit a human body, from a child 
to a full-grown man, laid with its side to the gallery. 
Sometimes there are as many as fourteen, sometimes as 

* That is, the red volcanic sand called puzzolana, so much prized 
for making Roman cement. 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 145 

few as three or four, of these rows, one above the other. 
They are evidently so made to measure, that it is probable 
the body was lying by the side of the grave, while this 
was being dug. 

When the corpse, wrapped up, as we heard from Dio- 
genes, was laid in its narrow cell, the front was hermeti- 
cally closed either by a marble slab, or more frequently 
by several broad tiles, put edgeways in a groove or mor- 
tice, cut for them in the rock, and cemented all round. 
The inscription was cut upon the marble, or scratched in 
the wet mortar. Thousands of the former sort have been 
collected, and may be seen in museums and churches ; many 
of the latter have been copied and published ; but by far 
the greater number of tombs are anonymous, and have no 
record upon them. And now the reader may reasonably 
ask, through what period does the interment in the cata- 
combs rang-e, and how are its limits determined. We will 
try to content him, as briefly as possible. 

There is no evidence of the Christians having ever 
buried any where, anteriorly to the construction of cata- 
combs. Two principles as old as Christianity regulate 
this mode of burial. The first is, the manner of Christ's 
entombment. He was laid in a grave in a cavern, wrapped 
up in linen, embalmed with spices; and a stone, sealed up, 
closed His sepulchre. As St. Paul so often proposes Him 
for the model of our resurrection, and speaks of our being 
buried with Him in baptism, it was natural for His disci- 
ples to wish to be buried after His example, so to be ready 
to rise with Him. 

This lying in wait for resurrection was the second 
thought that guided the formation of these cemeteries. 
Every expression connected with them alluded to the 
rising again. The word to bury is unknown in Christian 
inscriptions. " Deposit edm peace," " the deposition of — ," 
are the expressions used : that is, the dead are but left there 
for a time, till called for again, as a pledge, or precious 
thing, intrusted to faithful, but temporary, keeping 1 . The 
very name of cemetery suggests that it is only a place 
where many lie, as in a, dormitory, slumbering for a while; 
till dawn come, and the trumpet's sound awake them. 

L 



146 FABIOLAJ Oil, 

Hence the grave is only called " the place," or more 
technically, " the small home,"* of the dead in Christ. 

These two ideas, which are comhined in the planning 
of the catacombs, were not later insertions into the Chris- 
tian system, but must have been more vivid in its earlier 
times. They inspired abhorrence of the pagan custom of 
burning the dead ; nor have we a hint that this mode was, 
at any time, adopted by Christians. 

But ample proof is to be found in the catacombs 
themselves, of their early origin. The style of paintings, 
yet remaining, belongs to a period of still flourishing art. 
Their symbols, and the symbolical taste itself, are cha- 
racteristic of a very ancient period. For this peculiar taste 
declined, as time went on. Although inscriptions with 
dates are rare, yet out often thousand collected, and about 
to be published, by the learned and sag-acious Cavalier 
De Rossi, about three hundred are found bearing consular 
dates, through every period, from the early emperors to 
the middle of the fourth century (a.d. 350). Another 
curious and interesting custom furnishes us with dates on 
tombs. At the closing of the grave, the relations or 
friends, to mark it, would press into its wet plaster, and 
leave there a coin, a cameo, or engraved gem, sometimes 
even a shell or pebble ; probably that they might find the 
sepulchre again, especially where no inscription was left. 
Many of these objects continue to be found, many have 
been long collected. But it is not uncommon, where the 
coin, or, to speak scientifically, the medal, has fallen from 
its place, to find a mould of it left, distinct and clear in 
the cement, which equally gives its date. This is some- 
times of Domitian, or other early emperors. 

It may be asked, wherefore this anxiety to rediscover 
with certainty the tomb ? Besides motives of natural 
piety, there is one constantly recorded on sepulchral in- 
scriptions. In England, if want of space prevented the 
full date of a person's death being given, we should prefer 
chronicling the year, to the day of the month, when it 
occurred. It is more historical. No one cares about re- 
membering the day on which a person died, without the 
* Locus, loculus. 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 14? 

year ; but the year, without the day, is an important re- 
collection. Yet while so few ancient Chiistian inscriptions 
supply the year of people's deaths, thousands give us the 
very day of it, on which they died, whether in the hope- 
fulness of believers, or in the assurance of martyrs. This 
is easily explained. Of both classes annual commemoration 
had to be made, on the very day of their departure ; and 
accurate knowledge of this was necessary. Therefore it 
alone was recorded. 

In a cemetery close to the one in which we have left 
our three youths, with Diogenes and his sons,* were lately 
found inscriptions mingled together, belonging to both 
orders of the dead. One in Greek, after mentioning the 
" Deposition of Augenda on the 13th day before the Ca- 
lends, or 1st of June," adds this simple address, 

ZHCA1C ENKw KA1 
EPtuTA YTTEPHMtoN 

" Live in the Lord, and pray for us." 
Another fragment is as follows : 

N. IVN- 

...... IVIBAS- 

IN PACE ET PETE 
PRO NOBIS 

"... Nones of June . . . Live in peace, and pray for us." 

This is a third : 

VICTORIA . REFRIGERER [ET] 
ISSPIRITVS . TVS IN BONO 

" Victoria, be refreshed, and may thy spirit be in enjoyment" 
(good). 

This last reminds us of a most peculiar inscription 

* That of SS. Nereus and Achilleus. 



148 fabiola; or, 

found scratched in the mortar heside a grave in the ceme- 
tery of Praetextatus, not many yards from that of Callistns. 
It is remarkable, first, for being in Latin written with 
Greek letters ; then, for containing a testimony of the 
Divinity of our Lord ; lastly, for expressing a prayer for 
the refreshment of the departed. We fill up the portions 
of words wanting, from the falling out of part of the 
plaster. 



BEHE MERENTI SOP.ORI BON 
V1U KAL NOB 

ore CTT " 

PIT 



xp.c p,T f^ 

PE(j>:.p 

irEPEJr 

IN I | 



ITTO 
T€C 



" To the well-deserving sister Bon . . . The eighth day before the 
calends of Nov. Christ God Almighty refresh thy spirit in 
Christ." 

In spite of this digression on prayers inscribed over 
tombs, the reader will not, we trust, have forgotten, that 
we were establishing the fact, that the Christian cemeteries 
of Rome owe their origin to the earliest ages. We have 
now to state down to what period they were used. After 
peace was restored to the Church, the devotion of Chris- 
tians prompted them to desire burial near the martyrs, and 
holy people of an earlier age. But, generally speaking, 
they were satisfied to lie under the pavement. Hence the 
sepulchral stones which are often found in the rubbish of 
the catacombs, and sometimes in their places, bearing con- 
sular dates of the fourth century, are thicker, larger, better 
carved, and in a less simple style, than those of an earlier 
period, placed upon the walls. But before the end of that 
century, these monuments become rarer j and interment in 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 149 

the catacombs ceased in the following, at latest. Pope 
Damasus, who died in 384, reverently shrunk, as he tells 
us, in his own epitaph, from intruding- into the company of 
the saints. 

Restitutus, therefore, whose sepulchral tablet we gave 
for a title to our chapter, may well be considered as speak- 
ing in the name of the early Christians, and claiming' as 
their own exclusive work and property, the thousand miles 
of subterranean city, with their six millions of slumbering 
inhabitants, who trust in the Lord, and await His resur- 
rection.* 



CHAPTEE in. 

WHAT DIOGENES COULD NOT TELL ABOUT THE CATACOMBS. 

Diogenes lived during the first period in the history of 
the cemeteries, though near its close. Could he have 
looked into their future fate, he would have seen, near at 
hand, an epoch that would have gladdened his heart, to be 
followed by one that would have deeply afflicted him. 
Although, therefore, the matter of this chapter have no 
direct bearing upon our narrative, it will serve essentially 
to connect it with the present topography of its scene. 

"When peace and liberty were restored to the Church, 
these cemeteries became places of devotion, and of great 
resort. Each of them was associated with the name of 
one, or the names of several, of the more eminent martyrs 
buried in it ; and, on their anniversaries, crowds of citizens 
and of pilgrims thronged to their tombs, where the Divine 
mysteries were offered up, and the homily delivered in 
their praise. Hence began to be compiled the first mar- 
tyrologies, or calendars of martyrs' days, which told the 

* So F. Marehi calculates them, after diligent examination. We 
may mention here that, in the construction of these cemeteries, the 
sand extracted from one gallery was removed into another already 
excavated. Hence many are now found completely filled up. 



150 fabiola; or, 

faithful whither to go. " At Rome, on the Salarian, or 
the Appian, or the Ardeatine way," such are the indica- 
tions almost daily read in the Koman martyrology, now 
swelled out, by the additions of later ages.* 

An ordinary reader of the book hardly knows the 
importance of these indications ; for they have served to 
verify several otherwise dubious cemeteries. Another class 
of valuable writers also comes to our aid ; but before 
mentioning them, we will glance at the changes which 
this devotion produced in the cemeteries. First, com- 
modious entrances, with easy staircases were made j then 
walls were built to support the crumbling galleries; and, 
from time to time, funnel-shaped apertures in the vaults 
were opened, to admit light and air. Finally, basilicas or 
churches were erected over their entrances, generally lead- 
ing immediately to the principal tomb, then called the 
confession of the church. The pilgrim, thus, on arriving 
at the holy city, visited each of these churches, a custom 
yet practised; descended below, and without having to 
grope his way about, went direct, by well-constructed 
passages, to the principal martyr's shrine, and so on to 
others, perhaps equally objects of reverence and devotion. 

During this period, no tomb was allowed to be opened, 
no body to be extracted. Through apertures made into 

* One or two entries from the old Kalendarium Romanum will 
illustrate this : 

" iii. Non. Mart. Lucii in Callisti. 

vi. Id. Dec. Eutichiani in Callisti. 
xiii. Kal. Feb. Fabiani in Callisti, et Sebastiani ad Catacumbas. 
viii. Id. Aug. Systi in Callisti." 

We have extracted these entries of depositions in the cemetery of 
Callistus, because, while actually writing this chapter, we have re- 
ceived news of the discovery of the tombs and lapidary inscriptions 
of every one of these Popes, together with those of St. Antherus, in 
one chapel of the newly-ascertained cemetery of Callistus, with an 
inscription in verse by St. Damasus: 

" Prid. Kal. Jan. Sylvestri in Priscillae. 
iv. Id. (Aug.) Laurentii in Tiburtina. 
iii. Kal. Dec. Saturnini in Thrasonis." 

Published by Ruinart, — Acta, torn. iii. 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 151 

the grave, handkerchiefs or scarfs, called branded, were 
introduced, to touch the martyr's relics ; and these were 
carried to distant countries, to be held in equal reverence. 
No wonder that St. Ambrose, St. Gaudentius, and other 
bishops, should have foiind it so difficult to obtain bodies, 
or large relics of martyrs for their churches. Another 
sort of relics consisted of what was called familiarly the 
oil of a martyr, that is, the oil, often mixed with balsam, 
which burned in a lamp beside his tomb. Often a round 
stone pillar, three feet or so in heig"ht, and scooped out at 
the top, stands beside a monument ; probably to hold the 
lamp, or serve for the distribution of its contents. St. 
Gregory the Great wrote to Queen Theodelinda, that he 
sent her a collection of the oils of the popes who were 
martyrs. The list which accompanied them was copied 
by Mabillon in the treasury of Monza, and republished 
by Buinart.* It exists there yet, together with the very 
phials containing them, sealed up in metal tubes. 

This jealousy of disturbing the saints, is displayed most 
beautifully in an incident, related by St. Gregory of Tours. 
Among the martyrs most honoured in the ancient Roman 
Church were St. Chrysanthus and Daria. Their tombs 
became so celebrated for cures, that their fellow- Christians 
built (that is excavated) over them a chamber, with a 
vault of beautiful workmanship, where crowds of wor- 
shippers assembled. This was discovered by the heathens, 
and the emperor closed them in, walled up the entrance, 
and from above, probably through the htminare, or venti- 
lating shaft, showered down earth and stones, and buried 
the congregation alive, as the two holy martyrs had been 
before them. The place was unknown at the peace of the 
Church, till discovered by Divine manifestation. But in- 
stead of being permitted to enter again into this hallowed 
spot, pilgrims were merely allowed to look at it, through 
a window opened in the wall, so as to see, not only the 
tombs of the martyrs, but also the bodies of those who 
had been buried alive at their shrines. And as the cruel 
massacre had taken place while preparations were being 
made for oblation of the holy Eucharist, there were still 
* Acta Martyr, torn. iii. 



152 FABIOLA; OR, 

to be seen lying- about, the silver cruets in which the wine 
was brought for that spotless sacrifice.* 

It is clear that pilgrims resorting to Rome would 
want a hand-book to the cemeteries, that they might know 
what they had to visit It is likewise but natural that, on 
their return home, they may have sought to edify their 
less fortunate neighbours, by giving an account of what 
they had seen. Accordingly there exist, no less fortu- 
nately for us than for their untravelled neighbours, several 
records of this character. The first place, among - these, 
is held by catalogues compiled in the fourth century ; one, 
of the places of sepulture of Roman Pontiffs, the other 
of martyrs, f After these come three distinct guides to 
the catacombs ; the more interesting because they take dif- 
ferent rounds, yet agree marvellously in their account. 

To show the value of these documents, and describe 
the changes which took place in the catacombs during the 
second period of their history, we will give a brief account 
of one discovery, in the cemetery where we have left our 
little party. Among the rubbish near the entrance of a 
catacomb, the name of which was yet doubtful, and which 
had been taken for that of Praetextatus, was found a frag- 
ment of a slab of marble which had been broken across 
obliquely, from left to right, with the following letters : 

t 



JELll MAPvTYRlS 



The young Cavalier de Rossi at once declared that this 
was part of the sepulchral inscription of the holy Pope 
Cornelius ; that probably his tomb would be found below, 
in a distinguished form ; and that as all the itineraries 
above mentioned concurred in placing it in the cemetery 
of Callistus, this, and not the one at St. Sebastian's, a few 

* S. Greg. Turon, de Gloria Mart. lib. i. c. 28, ap. Marchi, p. 81. 
One would apply St. Damasus's epigram on these martyrs to this 
occurrence, Carm. xxviii. 

t Published by Bucherius in 1634. 

j (Of) . . nelius martyr. 



CH. 



III.] 



THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 



153 



hundred yards off, must claim the honour of that name. 
He went further, and foretold that as these works pro- 
nounced St. Cyprian to be buried near Cornelius, there 
would be found something at the tomb which would account 
for that idea j for it was known that his body rested in 
Africa. It was not long before every prediction was 
verified. The great staircase discovered* was found to lead 
at once to a wider space, carefully secured by brick-work 
of the time of peace, and provided with lig - ht and air from 
above. On the left was a tomb, cut like others in the 
rock, without any exterior arch over it. It was, however, 
large and ample ; and except one, very high above it, there 
were no other graves below, or over, or at the sides. The 
remaining portion of the slab was found within it ; the 
first piece was brought from the Kircherian Museum, 
where it had been deposited, and exactly fitted to it ; and 
both covered the tomb, thus : 




Below, reaching from the lower edge of this stone to the 
ground was a marble slab covered with an inscription, of 
which only the left-hand end remains, the rest being 
broken off and lost. Above the tomb was another slab 
let into the sand-stone, of which the right-hand end ex- 
ists, and a few more fragments have been recovered in the 
rubbish ; not enough to make out the lines, but sufficient 
to show it was an inscription in verse, by Pope Damasus. 
How is this authorship traceable 1 Very easily. Not 
only do we know that this holy pope, already mentioned, 
took pleasure in putting verses, which he loved to write, 
on the tombs of martyrs,}: but the number of inscriptions 
of his yet extant exhibit a particular and very elegant form 

* The crypt, we believe, was discovered before the stairs. 

t Of Cornelius Martyr Bishop. 

% These form the great bulk of his extant works in verse. 



154 

of letters, known among antiquarians by the name of 
" Damasian." The fragments of this marble bear portions 
of verses, in this character. 

To proceed : on the wall, right of the tomb, and on 
the same plane, were painted two full-length figures in 
sacerdotal garments, with glories round their heads, evi- 
dently of Byzantine work of the seventh century. Down 
the wall, by the left side of each, letter below letter, were 
their names ; some letters were effaced, which we supply 
in italics as follow : 

SCI+ CORNELlTF SCI+ CIPRUIM/.' 

We here see how a foreigner, reading these two inscrip- 
tions, with the portraits, and knowing that the Church 
commemorates the two martyrs on the same day, might 
easily be led to suppose, that they were here deposited 
together. Finally, at the right hand of the tomb, stands a 
truncated column, about three feet high, concave at the 
top, as before described ; and as a confirmation of the use 
to which we said it might be put, St. Gregory has, in his 
list of oils sent to the Lombard Queen, " Oleum S. Cor- 
nelii," the oil of St. Cornelius. 

We see, then, how, during the second period, new 
ornaments, as well as greater conveniences, were added to 
the primitively simple forms of the cemeteries. But we 
must not, on that account, imagine that we are in any 
danger of mistaking these later embellishments for the 

* " (The picture) of St. Cornelius Pope, of St. Cyprian." On the 
other side, on a narrow wall projecting at a right angle, are two 
more similar portraits; but only one name can be deciphered, that 
of St. Sixtus, or, as he is there and elsewhere called, Sustus. On 
the paintings of the principal saints may still be read, scratched in 
the mortar, in characters of the seventh century, the names of visi- 
tors to the tomb. Those of two priests are thus — 

4-LEO PRB IOANNIS PRB. 
It may be interesting to add the entry in the Roman calendar: 

" xviii. Kal. Oct. Cypriani Africa; : Romae celebratur in Cal- 
listi." " Sept. 14. (The deposition) of Cyprian in Africa: at Rome 
it is kept in (the cemetery) of Callistus." 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 155 

productions of the early ages. The difference is so im- 
mense, that we might as easily blunder by taking a Ru- 
bens for a Beato Angelico, as by considering a Byzantine 
figiire to be a production of the two first centuries. 

We come now to the third period of these holy ceme- 
teries, the sad one of their desolation. When the Lom- 
bards, and later the Saracens, began to devastate the 
neig'hboiuhood of Rome, and the catacombs were exposed 
to desecration, the popes extracted the bodies of the most 
illustrious martyrs, and placed them in the basilicas of the 
city. This went on till the eighth or ninth century ; when 
we still read of repairs made in the cemeteries by the sove- 
reign pontiffs. The catacombs ceased to be so much places 
of devotion ; and the churches, which stood over their en- 
trances, were destroyed, or fell to decay. Only those re- 
mained which were fortified, and could be defended. Such 
are the extramural basilicas of St. Paid on the Ostian way, 
of St. Sebastian on the Appian, St. Laurence on the Ti- 
burtine, or in the Ager Veranus, St. Agnes on the Nomen- 
tan road, St. Pancratius on the Aurelian, and, greatest 
of all, St. Peter's on the Vatican. The first and last had 
separate burghs or cities round them; and the traveller 
can still trace remains of strong walls round some of the 
others. 

Strange it is, however, that the young antiquarian, 
whom we have frequently named 'with honour, should have 
re-discovered two of the basdicas over the entrance to the 
cemetery of Callistus, almost entire ; the one being a stable 
and bake-house, the other a wine-store. One is, most pro- 
bably, that built by Pope Damasus, so often mentioned. 
The earth washed down, through air-holes, the spoliation 
practised during ages, by persons entering from vine- 
yards through unguarded entrances, the mere wasting 
action of time and weather, have left us but a wreck of the 
ancient catacombs. Still there is much to be thankful for. 
Enough remains to verify the records left us in better 
times, and these serve to guide us to the reconstruction of 
our ruins. The present Pontiff has done more in a few 
years for these sacred places, than has been effected in cen- 
turies. The mixed commission which he has appointed 



156 

have done wonders. With very limited means, they are 
going" systematically to work, finishing- as they advance. 
Nothing- is taken from the spot where it is found ; but 
every thing- is restored, as far as possible, to its original 
state. Accurate tracings are made of all the paintings, 
and plans of every part explored. To secure these good 
results, the Pope has, from his own resources, bought 
vineyards and fields, especially at Tor Marancia, where 
the cemetery of SS. Nereus and Achilleus is situated ; and 
we believe also over that of Calhstus. The French emperor 
too has sent to Rome, artists, who have produced a most 
magnificent work, perhaps somewhat overdone, upon the 
catacombs : a truly imperial undertaking. 

It is time, however, for us to rejoin our party below, 
and finish our inspection of these marvellous cities of de- 
parted saints, under the guidance of our friends the ex- 
cavators. 



CHAPTER IV. 

WHAT DIOGENES DID TELL ABOUT THE CATACOMBS 

All that we have told our readers of the first period of 
the history of subterranean Rome, as ecclesiastical anti- 
quarians love to call the catacombs, has no doubt been 
better related by Diogenes to his youthful hearers, as, taper 
in hand, they have been slowly walking through a long 
straight gallery, crossed, indeed, by many others, but ad- 
hered to faithfully ; with sundry pauses, and, of course, 
lectures, embodying what we have put together in our 
prosaic second chapter. 

At length Diogenes turned to the right, and Torqua- 
tus looked around him anxiously. 

" I wonder," he said, " how many turns we have 
passed by, before leaving this main gallery ?" 

" A great many," answered Severus, drily. 

" How many do you think, ten or twenty ?" 

" Full that, I fancy ; for I never have counted them." 



CH. IV.J THE CHURCH OP THE CATACOMBS. 157 

Torquatus had, however ; but wished to make sure. He 
continued, still pausing- : 

" How do you distinguish the right turn, then ? Oh, 
what is this ?" and he pretended to examine a small niche 
in the corner. But Severus kept too sharp a look-out, 
and saw that he was making a mark in the sand. 

" Come, come along," he said, " or we shall lose sight 
of the rest, and not see which way they turn. That little 
niche is to hold a lamp • you will find one at each angle. 
As to ourselves, we know every alley and turn here below, 
as you do those of the city above." 

Torquatus was somewhat reassured by this account of 
the lamps — those little earthen ones, evidently made on 
purpose for the catacombs, of which so many are there 
found. But not content, he kept as good count as he 
could of the turns, as they went ; and now with one excuse, 
and now with another, he constantly stopped, and scruti- 
nised particular spots and corners. But Severus had a 
lynx's eye upon him, and allowed nothing- to escape his 
attention. 

At last they entered a doorway, and found themselves 
in a square chamber, richly adorned with paintings. 

" What do you call this ?" asked Tiburtius. 

" It is one of the many crypts, or cubicula* which 
abound in our cemeteries," answered Diogenes ; " some- 
times they are merely famuy sepultures, but g-enerally they 
contain the tomb of some martyr, on whose anniversary 
we meet here. See that tomb opposite us, which, though 
flush with the wall, is arched over. That becomes, on 
such an occasion, the altar whereon the Divine mysteries 
are celebrated. You are of course aware of the custom of 
so performing them." 

" Perhaps my two friends," interposed Pancratius, "so 
recently baptised, may not have heard it ; but I know it 
well. It is surely one of the glorious privileges of martyr- 
dom, to have the Lord's sacred Body and precious Blood 
offered upon one's ashes, and to repose thus under the very 

* Chambers. 



158 FABIOLA; OR, 

feet of God.* But let us see well the paintings all over 
this crypt." 

" It is on account of them that I brought you into this 
chamber, in preference to so many others in the cemetery. 
It is one of the most ancient, and contains a most complete 
series of pictures, from the remotest times down to some of 
my son's doing." 

" Well, then, Diogenes, explain them systematically 
to my friends," said Pancratius. " I think I know most 
of them, but not all ; and I shall be glad to hear you de- 
scribe them." 

" I am no scholar," replied the old man, modestly, "but 
when one has lived sixty years, man and boy, among things, 
one gets to know them better than others, because one loves 
them more. All here have been fully initiated, I suppose ?" 
he added, with a pause. 

"All," answered Tiburtius, "though not so fully in- 
structed as converts ordinarily are. Torquatus and myself 
have received the sacred gift." 

"Enough," resumed the excavator. "The ceiling is 
the oldest part of the painting, as is natural ; for that was 
done when the crypt was excavated, whereas the walls were 
decorated, as tombs were hollowed out. You see the ceil- 
ing has a sort of trellis-work painted over it, with grapes, 
to represent perhaps our true Vine, of which we are the 
branches. There you see Orpheus sitting down, and play- 

* " Sic venerarier ossa libet, 
Ossibus altar et impositum; 
Ilia Dei sita sub pedibus, 
Prospicit hsec, populosque suos 
Carmine propitiata fovet." 

Prudentius, iregi <rre(j>. iii. 43. 

" With her relics gathered here, 
The altar o'er them placed revere, 
She beneath God's feet reposes, 
Nor to us her soft eye closes, 
Nor her gracious ear." 

The idea that the martyr lies "beneath the feet of God" is in allu- 
sion to the Real Presence in the Blessed Eucharist. 



CH. IV.] THE CHUHCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 159 

ing sweet music, not only to his own flock, but to the wild 
Leasts of the desert, which stand charmed around him." 

" Why, that is a heathen picture altogether," inter- 
rupted Torquatus, with pettishness, and some sarcasm • 
" what has it to do with Christianity ?" 

"It is an allegory, Torquatus," replied Pancratius, 
gently, " and a favourite one. The use of Gentile imag-es, 
when in themselves harmless, has been permitted. You 
see masks, for instance, and other pagan ornaments in this 
ceiling, and they belong generally to a very ancient period. 
And so our Lord was represented under the symbol of Or- 
pheus, to conceal His sacred representation from Gentile 
blasphemy and sacrilege. Look, now, in that arch ; you 
have a more recent representation of the same subject." 

" I see," said Torquatus, " a shepherd with a sheep 
over his shoulders — the Good Shepherd; that I can under- 
stand ; I remember the parable." 

" But why is this subject such a favourite one ?" asked 
Tiburtius ; " I have observed it in other cemeteries." 

" If you will look over the arcosolium"* answered 
Severus, " you will see a fuller representation of the scene. 
Bui I think we had better first continue what we have 
begun, and finish the ceiling. You see that figure on the 
right?" 

" Yes," replied Tiburtius ; " it is that of a man appa- 
rently in a chest, with a dove flying towards him. Is that 
meant to represent the Deluge ?" 

" Tt is," said Severus, " as the emblem of regeneration 
by water and the Holy Spirit ; and of the salvation of the 
world. Such is our beg-inning ; and here is our end : Jonas 
thrown out of the boat, and swallowed by the whale ; and 
then sitting in enjoyment under his gourd. The resurrec- 
tion with our Lord, and eternal rest as its fruit." 

" How natural <s this representation in such a place !" 
observed Pancratius, pointing to the other side ; " and here 
we have another type of the same consoling* doctrine." 

" Where?" asked Torquatus, languidly; " I see nothing 

* The arched tombs were so called. A homely illustration would 
be an arched fireplace, walled up to the height of three feet. The 
paintings would be inside, above the wall. 



160 FABIOLA; OR, 

but a figure bandaged all round, and standing up, like a 
huge infant in a small temple ; and another person oppo- 
site to it." 

" Exactly," said Severus ; " that is the way we always 
represent the resurrection of Lazarus. Here look, is a touch- 
ing expression of the hopes of our fathers in persecution: 
The three Babylonian children in the fiery furnace." 

" Well, now, I think," said Torquatus, " we may come 
to the arcosolhtm, and finish this room. What are these 
pictures round it ?" 

" If you look at the left side, you see the multiplication 
of the loaves and fishes. The fish* is you know the symbol 
of Christ." 

" Why so ?" asked Torquatus, rather impatiently. Se- 
verus turned to Pancratius, as the better scholar, to answer. 

"There are two opinions about its origin," said the 
youth, readily: "one finds the meaning in the word itself; 
its letters forming the beginning of words, so as to mean 
' Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour.'f Another puts it in 
the symbol itself; that as fish are born and live in the 
water, so is the Christian born of water, and buried with 
Christ in it, by baptism.}: Hence, as we came along, we 
saw the figure of a fish carved on tombs, or its name 
engraven on them. Now go on, Severus." 

" Then the union of the bread and the fish in one mul- 
tiplication shows us how, in the Eucharist, Christ becomes 
the food of all. § Opposite, is Moses striking the rock, from 
which all drank, and which is Christ, our drink as well as 
our food. "|| 

* The word is usually given in Greek, and Christ is familiarly 
called the ix^vs, ichthys. 

f This is the interpretation of St. Optatus (adv. JParm. lib. iii.) 
and St. Augustine (de C D. lib. xviii e. 23). 

J This is Tertullian's explanation (de Baptismo, lib. ii. c. 2). 

§ In the same cemetery is another interesting painting. On a 
table lie a loafanda fish; a, priest is stretching his hands over 
them; and opposite is a female figure in adoration. The priest is 
the same as, in a picture close by. is represented administering 
baptism. In another chamber just cleared out, are very ancient de- 
corations, such as masks, &c, and fishes bearing baskets of bread 
and flasks of wine, on their backs as they swim. 

|| The type of the figure is that of St. Peter, as he is represented 



CH. IV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 161 

"Now, at last," said Torquatus, "we are come to the 
Good Shepherd." 

"Yes," continued Severus, "you see Him in the centre 
of the arcosolium, in His simple tunic and leggings, with a 
sheep upon His shoulders, the recovered wanderer from the 
flock. Two more are standing" at His sides ; the truant 
ram on His right, the gentle ewe upon His left; the penitent 
in the post of honour. On each side too, you see a person 
evidently sent by Him to preach. Both are leaning- for- 
ward, and addressing sheep not of the fold. One on either 
side is apparently giving no heed to their words, biit brows- 
ing- quietly on, while one is turning- up its eyes and head, 
looking and listening with eager attention. Rain is falling- 
copiously on them ; that is the grace of God. It is not 
difficult to interpret this picture." 

" But what makes this emblem such a particular fa- 
vourite ?" again pressed Tiburtius. 

"We consider this, and similar paintings, to belong- 
chiefly to the time, when the Novatian heresy so much 
plagued the Church," answered Severus. 

"And pray what heresy is that?" asked Torquatus, 
carelessly ; for he thought he was losing time. 

" It was, and indeed is, the heresy," answered Pancra- 
tius, " that teaches, that there are sins which the Church 
has not power to forgive ; which are too great for God to 
pardon." 

Pancratius was not aware of the effect of his words ; 
but Severus, who never took off his eye from Torquatus, 
saw the blood come and go violently in his countenance. 

" Is that a heresy V asked the traitor, confused. 

" Surely a dreadful one," replied Pancratius, " to limit 
the mercy and forgiveness of Him, who came to call not 
the just, but sinners to repentance. The Catholic Church 
has always held, that a sinner, however dark the dye, 
however huge the mass, of his crimes, on truly repenting, 
may receive forgiveness, through the penitential remedy 
left in her hands. And, therefore, she has always so much 

to us in the cemeteries. On a glass, bearing a picture of this scene, 
the person striking the rock has written over his head, PETRV S. 

M 



162 



FABI0LA; OR, 



loved this type of the Good Shepherd, ready to run into 
the wilderness, to bring back a lost sheep." 

" But suppose," said Torquatus, evidently moved, "that 
one who had become a Christian, and received the sacred 
Gift, were to fall away, and plunge into vice, and — and" — 
(his voice faltered) — "almost betray his brethren, would 
not the Church reject such a one from hope ?" 

" No, no," answered the youth ; " these are the very 
crimes, which the jNovatians insult the Catholics for ad- 
mitting to pardon. The Church is a mother, with her 
arms ever open to re-embrace her erring children." 

There was a tear trembling in Torquatus's eye ; his lips 
quivered with the confession of his g-uilt, which ascended to 
them for a moment ; but as if a black poisonous drop rose 
up his throat with it and choked him, he changed in a 
moment to a hard, obstinate look, bit his lip, and said, with 
an effort at coolness, " It is certainly a consoling doctrine 
for those that need it." 

Severus alone observed that a moment of grace had 
been forfeited, and that some despairing - thought had 
quenched a flash of hope, in that man's heart. Diogenes 
and Majus, who had been absent, looking at a new place 
for opening a gallery near, now returned. Torquatus ad- 
dressed the old master-digger : 

"We have now seen the galleries and the chambers; 
I am anxious to visit the church in which we shall have 
to assemble." 

The unconscious excavator was going to lead the way, 
when the inexorable artist interposed. 

" I think, father, it is too late for to-day ; you know 
we have got our work to do. These young friends will 
excuse us, especially as they will see the church in good 
time, and in better order also, as the holy Pontiff intends 
to officiate in it." 

They assented; and when they arrived at the point 
where they had turned off from the first straight gallery 
to visit the ornamented chamber, Diogenes stopped the 
party, turned a few steps along an opposite passage, and 
said : 

"If you pursue this corridor, and turn to the right, 



CH. V.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 163 

you come to the church. I have merely brought you here 
to show you an arcosolium, with a beautiful painting'. You 
here see the Virgin Mother holding' her Divine Infant in 
her arms, while the wise Easterns, here represented as four, 
though generally we only reckon three, are adoring Him."* 

All admired the painting ; but poor Severus was much 
chagrined, at seeing how his good father had unwittingly 
supplied the information desired by Torquatus, and had 
furnished him with a sure clue to the desired turn, by 
calling his attention to the tomb close round it, distin- 
guishable by so remarkable a picture. 

When their company was departed, he told all that he 
had observed to his brother, remarking, " That man will 
give us trouble yet : I strongly suspect him." 

In a short time they had removed every mark which 
Torquatus had made at the turnings. But this was no 
security against his reckonings; and they determined to 
prepare for changing the road, by blocking up the present 
one, and turning off at another point. For this purpose, 
they had the sand of new excavations brought to the ends 
of a gallery which crossed the main avenue, where this was 
low, and left it heaped up there, till the faithful could be 
instructed of the intended change. 



CHAPTER V. 

ABOVE GROUND. 

To recover our reader from his long subterranean excursion, 
we must take him with us on another visit, to the " happy 
Campania," or, " Campany the blest," as an old writer 
might have called it. There we left Fabiola perplexed by 
some sentences which she had found. They came to her 

* There are several repetitions of this painting. One has been 
lately found, if we remember right, in the cemetery of Nereus and 
Achilleus. It is long anterior to the Council of Chalcedon, whence 
this mode of representing our Lord is usually dated. It is given in 
our title-page. 



164 fabiola; or, 

like a letter from another world ; she hardly knew of what 
character. She wished to learn more about them, but she 
hardly durst inquire. Many visitors called the next day, 
and for several days after, and she often thought of putting 
before some or other of them the mysterious sentences, but 
she could not bring- herself to do it. 

A lady, whose life was like her own, philosophically 
correct, and coldly virtuous, came ; and they talked to- 
g-ether over the fashionable opinions of the day. She took 
out her vellum page to puzzle her ; but she shrank from 
submitting it to her : it felt profane to do so. A learned 
man, well read in all branches of science and literature, 
paid her a long visit, and spoke very charmingly on the 
sublimer views of the older schools. She was tempted to 
consult him about her discovery; but it seemed to con- 
tain something- higher than he could comprehend. It was 
strange that, after all, when wisdom or consolation was to 
be sought, the noble and haughty Roman lady should 
turn instinctively to her Christian slave. And so it was 
now. The first moment they were alone, after several days 
of company and visits, Fabiola produced her parchment, 
and placed it before Syra. There passed over her coun- 
tenance an emotion not observable to her mistress ; but 
she was perfectly calm, as she looked up from reading-. 

" That writing," said her mistress, " I got at Chroma- 
tius's villa, on the back of a note, probably by mistake. 
I cannot drive it out of my mind, which is quite perplexed 
by it." 

" Why should it be so, my noble lady ? Its sense 
seems plain enough." 

" Yes ; and that very plainness gives me trouble. My 
natural feelings revolt against this sentiment : I fancy I 
ought to despise a man, who does not resent an injury, and 
return hatred for hatred. To forgive at most would be 
much ; but to do good in return for evil, seems to me an 
unnatural exaction from human nature. Now, while I 
feel all this, I am conscious that I have been brought to 
esteem you, for conduct exactly the reverse of what I am 
naturally impelled to expect." 

" Oh, do not talk of me, my dear mistress ; but look 



CH. V.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 165 

at the simple principle ; you honour it in others, too. Do 
you despise, or do you respect, Aristides, for obliging- a 
boorish enemy, by writing, when asked, his own name, on 
the shell that voted his banishment ? Do you, as a Roman 
lady, contemn, or honour, the name of Coriolanus, for his 
generous forbearance to your city?" 

" I venerate both, most truly, Syra ; but then you know 
those were heroes, and not every-day men." 

"And why should we not all be heroes?" asked Syra, 
laughing - . 

" Bless me, child ! what a world we should live in, if 
we were. It is very pleasant reading about the feats of 
such wonderful people ; but one would be very sorry to 
see them performed by common men, every day." 

" Why so ?" pressed the servant. 

" Why so ? who would like to find a baby she was 
nursing, playing with, or strangling, serpents in the cradle ? 
I should be very sorry to have a gentleman, whom I in- 
vited to dinner, telling me coolly he had that morning 
killed a minotaur, or strangled a hydra; or to have a 
friend offering to send the Tiber through my stables, to 
cleanse them. Preserve us from a generation of heroes, say 
I." And Fabiola laughed heartily at the conceit. In the 
same good humour Syra continued ; 

" But suppose we had the misfortune to live in a 
country where such monsters existed, centaurs and mino- 
taurs, hydras and dragons. Would it not be better that 
common men should be heroes enough to conquer them, 
than that we should have to send off to the other side of 
the world, for a Theseus or a Hercules, to destroy them ? 
In fact, in that case, a man would be no more a hero if he 
fought them, than a lion-slayer is in my country." 

" Quite true, Syra ; but I do not see the application 
of your idea." 

" It is this : anger, hatred, revenge, ambition, avarice, 
are to my mind as complete monsters, as serpents or 
dragons ; and they attack common men as much as great 
ones. Why should not I try to be as able to conquer 
them, as Aristides, or Coriolanus, or Cincinnatus? Why 
leave it to heroes only, to do what we can do as well ?" 



166 fabiola; or, 

" And do you really hold this as a common moral prin- 
ciple ? If so, I fear you will soar too high." 

" No, dear lady. You were startled when I ventured 
to maintain that inward and unseen virtue was as neces- 
sary a^ the outward and visible : I fear I must surprise 
you still more." 

" Go on, and do not fear to tell me all." 

" Well, then, the principle of that system which I pro- 
fess is this : that we must treat, and practise, as every-day 
and common virtue, nay, as simple duty, whatever any 
other code, the purest and sublimest that may be, con- 
siders heroic, and proof of transcendent virtue." 

" That is indeed a sublime standard to form, of moral 
elevation ; but mark the difference between the two cases. 
The hero is supported by the praises of the world : his act 
is recorded and transmitted to posterity, when he checks 
his passions, and performs a sublime action. But who sees, 
cares for, or shall requite, the poor obscure wretch, who in 
humble secrecy imitates his conduct ?" 

Syra, with solemn, reverential look and gesture, raised 
her eyes and her right hand to heaven, and slowly said, 
" His Father, who is in heaven, who maketh His sun to 
rise on the good and the bad, and raineth on the just and 
the unjust." 

Fabiola paused for a time, overawed : then said affec- 
tionately and respectfully : " Again, Syra, you have con- 
quered my philosophy. Your wisdom is consistent as it 
is sublime. A virtue heroic, even when unseen, you pro- 
pose as the ordinary daily virtue of every one. Men must 
indeed become more than what gods have been thought 
to be, to attempt it; but the very idea is worth a whole 
philosophy. Can you lead me higher than this ?" 

" Oh/far!— far higher still." 

" And where at length would you leave me?" 

" Where your heart shoidd tell you, that it had found 
peace." 



CH. VI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 167 



CHAPTER VI. 

DELIBERATIONS. 

The persecution had now been some time raging 1 in the 
East under Dioclesian and Galerius ; and the decree, for 
enkindling- it throughout the West, had reached Maxi- 
mian. But it had been resolved to make this a work, 
not of repression, but of extermination, of tbe Christian 
name. It had been determined to spare no one; but cut- 
ting off the chiefs of the religion first, to descend down 
to the wholesale butcheiy of the poorest classes. It was 
necessary for this purpose to concert measures, that the 
various engines of destruction might work in cruel har- 
mony : that every possible instrument should be employed 
to secure completeness to the effort; and also that the ma- 
jesty of imperial command should add its grandeur and its 
terror, to the crushing - blow. 

For this purpose, the emperor, thoug'h impatient to 
begin his work of blood, had yielded to the opinion of his 
counsellors, that the edict shoidd be kept concealed, till it 
could be published simultaneoiisly in every province, and 
government, of the West. The thundercloud, fraught with 
vengeance, would thus hang for a time, in painful mystery, 
over its intended victims, and then burst suddenly upon 
them, discharging upon their heads its mingled elements, 
and its " fire, hail, snow, ice, and boisterous Mast." 

It was in the month of November, that Maximian 
Herculeus convoked the meeting in which his plans had 
finally to be adjusted. To it were summoned the leading 
officers of his court, and of the state. The principal one, 
the prefect of the city, had brought with him his son, 
Corvinus, whom he had proposed to be captain of a body 
of armed pursuivants, picked out for their savageness and 
hatred of Christians ; who shoidd hunt them out, or down, 
with unrelenting assiduity. The chief prefects or go- 
vernors of Sicilv, Italy, Spain, and Gaul, were present, to 
receive their orders. In addition to these, several learned 
men, philosophers, and orators, among whom was our old 



168 FABIOLA; OR, 

acquaintance Calpurnius, had been invited; and many 
priests, who had come from different parts, to petition for 
heavier persecution, were commanded to attend. 

The usual residence of the emperors, as we have seen, 
was the Palatine. There was, however, another much es- 
teemed by them, which Maximian Herculeus in particular 
preferred. During - the reign of Nero, the wealthy senator, 
Plautius Lateranus, was charged with conspiracy, and of 
course punished with death. His immense property was 
seized by the emperor, and part of this was his house, de- 
scribed by Juvenal, and other writers, as of unusual size 
and magnificence. It was beautifully situated on the 
Coelian hill, and on the southern verge of the city; so 
that from it was a view unequalled even in the vicinity of 
Rome. Stretching- across the wavy campag-na, here be- 
strided by colossal aqueducts, crossed by lines of roads, 
with their fringes of marble tombs, and bespangled all 
over with glittering villas, set like gems in the dark green 
enamel of laurel and cypress, the eye reached, at evening, 
the purple slope of hills on which, as on a couch, lay 
stretched luxuriously Alba and Tusculum, with " their 
daughters," according to oriental phrase, basking brightly 
in the setting sun. The craggy range of Sabine moun- 
tains on the left, and the golden expanse of the sea on the 
right, of the beholder, closed in this perfect landscape. 

It would be attributing to Maximian a quality which 
he did not possess, were we to give him credit for loving 
a residence so admirably situated, through any taste for 
the beautiful. The splendour of the buildings, which he 
had still further adorned, or possibly the facility of running 
out of the city for the chase of boar and wolf, was the 
motive of this preference. A native of Sirmium, in Scla- 
vonia, a reputed barbarian therefore of the lowest extrac- 
tion, a mere soldier of fortune, without any education, 
endowed with little more than a brute strength, which 
made his surname of Herculeus most appropriate, he had 
been raised to the purple by his brother-barbarian Diocles, 
known as the emperor Dioclesian. Like him, covetous to 
meanness, and spendthrift to recklessness, addicted to the 
same coarse vices and foul crimes, which a Christian pen 



CH. VI. J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 169 

refuses to record, without restraint of any passion, without 
sense of justice, or feeling of humanity, this monster had 
never ceased to oppress, persecute, and slay whoever stood 
in his way. To him the coming 1 persecution looked like 
an approaching- feast does to a glutton, who requires the 
excitement of a surfeit, to relieve the monotony of daily 
excess. Gigantic in frame, with the well-known features 
of his race, with the hair on his head and face more yellow 
than red, shaggy and wild, like tufts of straw, with eyes 
restlessly rolling in a compound expression of suspicion, 
profligacy, and ferocity, this almost last of Rome's tyrants 
struck terror into the heart of any beholder, except a Chris- 
tian. Is it wonderful that he hated the race and its 
name? 

In the large basilica, or hall, then, of the iEdes Late 
ranae,* Maximian met his motley council, in which secrecy 
was ensured by penalty of death. In the semicircular apse 
at the upper end of the hall, sat the emperor, on an ivory 
throne richly adorned, and before him were arranged his 
obsequious and almost trembling- advisers. A chosen body 
of guards kept the entrance ; and the oflicer in command, 
Sebastian, was leaning negligently against it on the inside, 
but carefully noted every word that was spoken. 

Little did the emperor think, that the hall in which he 
sat, and which he afterwards gave, with the contiguous 
palace, to Constantine, as part of the dowry of his daughter, 
Fausta, would be transferred by him to the head of the re- 
ligion he was planning to extirpate, and become, retaining 
its name of the Lateran Basilica, the cathedral of Rome, 
" of all the churches of the city and of the world the 
mother and chief."f Little did he imagine, that on the 
spot whereon rested his throne, would be raised a Chair, 
whence commands should issue, to reach worlds unknown 
to Roman sway, from an immortal race of sovereigns, spi- 
ritual and temporal. 

Precedence was granted, hy religious courtesy, to the 

fwiests; each of whom had his tale to tell. Here a river 
lad overflowed its banks, and done much mischief to the 

* The Lateran house or palace. 

■f Inscription on the front, and medals, of the Lateran Basilica. 



170 



FABIOLA; OH, 



neighbouring plains; there an earthquake had thrown 
down part of a town ; on the northern frontiers the bar- 
barians threatened invasion ; at the south, the plague was 
ravaging the pious population. In every instance, the 
oracles had declared, that it was all owing to the Chris- 
tians, whose toleration irritated the gods, and whose evil 
charms brought calamity on the empire. Nay, some had 
afflicted their votaries by openly proclaiming-, that they 
would utter no more, till the odious Nazarenes had been 
exterminated ; and the g'reat Delphic oracle had not hesi- 
tated to declare, " that the Just did not allow the gods to 
speak." 

Next came the philosophers and orators, each of whom 
made his own long-winded oration; during which Maxi- 
mian gave unequivocal signs of weariness. But as the 
Emperors in the East had held a similar meeting, he con- 
sidered it his duty to sit out the annoyance. The usual 
calumnies were repeated, for the ten-thousandth time, to an 
applauding assembly ; the stories of murdering and eating 
infants, of committing foul crimes, of worshipping martyrs' 
bodies, of adoring an ass's head, and inconsistently enough 
of being unbelievers, and serving no God. These tales 
were all most firmly believed : thoug'h probably their re- 
citers knew perfectly well, they were but good sound 
heathen lies, very useful in keeping up a horror of Chris- 
tianity. 

But, at length, up rose the man, who was considered to 
have most deeply studied the doctrines of the enemy, and 
best to know their dangerous tactics. He was supposed 
to have read their own books, and to be drawing up a con- 
futation of their errors, which would fairly crush them. 
Indeed, so great was his weight with his own side, that 
when he asserted that Christians held any monstrous prin- 
ciple, had their supreme pontiff in person contradicted it, 
every one would have laughed at the very idea, of taking 
his word for his own belief, against the assertion of Cal- 
purnius. 

He struck up a different strain, and his learning quite 
astonished his fellow-sophists. He had read the original 
books, he said not only of the Christians themselves, but of 



CH. VI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 171 

their forefathers, the Jews ; who, having 1 come into Egypt 
in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphia, to escape from a 
famine in their own country, through the arts of their 
leader, Josephus, bought up all the corn there, and sent it 
home. Upon which Ptolemy imprisoned them, telling 
them, that as they had eaten up all the corn, they should 
live on the straw, by making bricks with it for building a 
great city. Then Demetrius Phalerius, hearing from them 
of a great many curious histories of their ancestors, shut 
up Moses and Aaron, their most learned men, in a tower, 
having shaved half their beards, till they should write in 
Greek all then' records. These rare books Calpurnius 
had seen, and he would build his argument entirely on 
them. This race made war upon every king and people, 
that came in their way; and destroyed them all. It was 
their principle, if they took a city, to put every one to the 
sword ; and this was all because they were under the go- 
vernment of their ambitious priests ; so that when a certain 
king, Saul, called also Paul, spared a poor captive monarch 
whose name was Agag, the priests ordered him to be 
brought out and hewed in pieces. 

" Now," continued he, " these Christians are still under 
the domination of the same priesthood, and are quite as 
ready to-day, under their direction, to overthrow the great 
Roman empire, burn us all in the Forum, and even sacrile- 
giously assail the sacred and venerable heads of our divine 
emperors." 

A thrill of horror ran through the assembly, at this 
recital. It was soon hushed, as the emperor opened his 
mouth to speak. 

" For my part," he said, " I have another and a stronger 
reason for my abhorrence of these Christians. They have 
dared to establish in the heart of the empire, and in this 
very city, a supreme religious authority, unknown here 
before, independent of the government of the State, and 
equally powerful over their minds as this. Formerly, all 
acknowledged the emperor as supreme in religious, as in 
civil, rule. Hence he bears still the title of Pontifex Maxi- 
mus. But these men have raised up a divided power, 
and consequently bear but a divided loyalty. I hate. 



172 

therefore, as a usurpation in my dominions, this sacerdotal 
sway over my subjects. For I declare, that I would rather 
hear of a new rival starting up to my throne, than of the 
election of one of these priests in Rome."* 

This speech, delivered in a harsh grating voice, and 
with a vulgar foreign accent, was received with immense 
applause ; and plans were formed for the simultaneous pub- 
lication of the Edict through the West, and for its complete 
and exterminating execution. 

Then turning sharp upon Tertullus, the emperor said : 
" Prefect, you said you had some one to propose, for super- 
intending these arrangements, and for merciless dealings 
with these traitors." 

" He is here, sire, my son Corvinus." And Tertullus 
handed the youthful candidate to the grim tyrant's foot- 
stool, where he knelt. Maximian eyed him keenly, burst 
into a hideous laugh, and said : " Upon my word, I think 
he'll do. Why, prefect, I had no idea you had such an 
ugly son. I should think he is just the thing ; every qua- 
lity of a thorough -paced, unconscientious scapegrace is 
stamped upon his features." 

Then turning to Corvinus, who was scarlet with rage, 
terror, and shame, he said to him : " Mind you, sirrah, I 
must have clean work of it ; no hacking and hewing - , no 
blundering. I pay up well, if I am well served ; but I 
pay off well, too, if badly served. So now g-o ; and re- 
member, that if your back can answer for a small fault, 
your head will for a greater. The \ictors\fasces contain 
an axe as well as rods." 

The emperor rose to depart, when his eye caught 
Fulvius, who had been summoned as a paid court-spy, but 
who kept as much in the back-ground as possible. " Ho, 
there, my eastern worthy," he called out to him ; " draw 
nearer." 

* These are the very words of Decius, on the election of St. Cor- 
nelius to the See of St. Peter: "Cum multo patientius audiret levari 
adversum se semulum principem, quam constitui Komse Dei sacer- 
dotem." S. Cypr. Ep. lii. ad Antonianum, p. 69, ed. Maur. Could 
there be a stronger proof, that under the heathen empire, the papal 
power was sensible and external, even to the extent of exciting 
imperial jealousy ? 



C!H. VI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 173 

Fulvius obeyed with apparent cheerfulness, but with 
real reluctance ; much the same as if he had been invited 
to go very near a tiger, the strength of whose chain he 
was not quite sure about. He had seen, from the begin- 
ning, that his coming to Eome had not been acceptable to 
Maximian, though he knew not fully the cause. It was 
not merely that the tyrant had plenty of favourites of his 
own to enrich, and spies to pay, without Dioclesian's send- 
ing him more from Asia, though this had its weight ; but 
it was more. He believed in his heart that Fulvius had 
been sent principally to act the spy upon himself, and to 
report to Nicomedia the sayings and doings of his court. 
While, therefore, he was obliged to tolerate him, and em- 
ploy him, he mistrusted, and disliked him, which in him 
was equivalent to hating - him. It was some compensation, 
therefore, to Corvinus, when he heard his more polished 
confederate publicly addressed, as rudely as himself, in 
the following - terms : 

" None of your smooth, put-on looks for me, fellow. I 
want deeds, not smirks. You came here as a famous plot- 
hunter, a sort of stoat, to pull conspirators out of their 
nests, or suck their eggs for me. I have seen nothing of 
this so far; and yet you have had plenty of money to set you 
up in business. These Christians will afford you plenty of 
game ; so make yourself ready, and let us see what you can 
do. You know my ways ; you had better look sharp about 
you, therefore, or you may have to look at something 
very sharp before you. The property of the convicted 
will be divided between the accusers and the treasury; 
unless I see particular reasons for taking" the whole to 
myself. Now you may go." 

Most thought that these particular reasons would turn 
out to be very general. 



174 FABIOLA; OR, 

CHAPTER VII. 

DARK DEATH. 

A few days after Fabiola's return from the country, Se- 
bastian considered it his duty to wait upon her, to commu- 
nicate so much of the dialogue between Corvinus and her 
black slave, as he could without causing' unnecessary suf- 
fering - . We have already observed, that of the many noble 
youths whom Fabiola had met in her father's house, none 
had excited her admiration and respect except Sebastian. 
So frank, so generous, so brave, yet so unboasting; so 
mild, so kind in act and speech, so unselfish and so care- 
ful of others, blending so completely in one character no- 
bleness and simplicity, high wisdom and practical sense, 
he seemed to her the most finished type of manly virtue, 
one which would not easily suffer by time, nor weary by 
familiarity. 

When, therefore, it was announced to her that the 
officer Sebastian wished to speak to her alone, in one of 
the halls below, her heart beat at the unusual tidings, and 
conjured up a thousand strange fancies, about the possible 
topics of his interview. This agitation was not diminished, 
when, after apologising for his seeming - intrusion, he re- 
marked with a smile, that, well knowing how sufficiently 
she was already annoyed by the many candidates for her 
hand, he felt regret at the idea, that he was going to add 
another, yet undeclared, to her list. If this ambiguous 
preface surprised, and perhaps elated her, she was soon 
depressed again, upon being told, it was the vulgar and 
stupid Corvinus. For her father, even, little as he knew 
how to discriminate characters out of business, had seen 
enough of him at his late banquet, to characterise him to 
his daughter by those epithets. 

Sebastian, fearing rather the physical, than the moral, 
activity of Afra's drugs, thought it right to inform her of 
the compact between the two dabblers in the black art, 
the principal efficacy of which, however, seemed to consist 
in drawing money from the purse of a reluctant dupe. 



CH. VII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 175 

He of course said nothing of what related to the Christians 
in that dialog*ue. He put her on her guard, and she pro- 
mised to prevent the nightly excursions of her necroman- 
cer slave. What Afra had engaged to do, she did not 
for a moment believe it was ever her intention to attempt; 
neither did she fear arts which she utterly despised. In- 
deed Afra's last soliloquy seemed satisfactorily to prove, 
that she was only deceiving her victim. But she cer- 
tainly felt indignant at having been bargained about by 
two such vile characters, and having 1 been represented as 
a grasping avaricious woman, whose price was gold. 

" I feel," she said at last to Sebastian, " how very 
kind it is of you, to come thus to put me on my guard ; 
and I admire the delicacy with which you have unfolded 
so disagreeable a matter, and the tenderness ,jvith which 
you have treated every one concerned." 

" I have only done in this instance," replied the soldier, 
" what I should have done for any human being, — save 
him, if possible, from pain or danger." 

" Your friends, I hope you mean," said Fabiola, 
smiling ; " otherwise I fear your whole life would go, in 
works of unrequited benevolence." 

" And so let it go ; it could not be better spent." 

" Surely, you are not in earnest, Sebastian. If you 
saw one who had ever hated you, and sought your de- 
struction, threatened with a calamity, which would make 
him harmless, would you stretch out your hand to save, 
or succour, him ?" 

" Certainly I would. While God sends His sunshine 
and His rain equally upon His enemies, as upon His friends, 
shall weak man frame another rule of justice ?" 

At these words Fabiola wondered ; they were so like 
those of her mysterious parchment, identical with the moral 
theories of her slave. 

" You have been in the East, I believe, Sebastian," 
she asked him, rather abruptly ; " was it there that you 
learnt these principles ? For I have one near me, who is 
yet, by her own choice, a servant, a woman of rare moral 
perceptions, who has propounded to me the same ideas ; 
and she is an Asiatic." 



176 FABIOLA; OR, 

" It is not in any distant country that I learnt them ; 
for here I sucked them in with my mother's milk ; though, 
originally, they doubtless came from the East." 

" They are certainly beautiful in the abstract," re- 
marked Fabiola; "but death would overtake us before 
we could half carry them out, were we to make them our 
principles of conduct." 

" And how better could death find us, though not 
surprise us, than in thus doing our duty, even if not to its 
completion?" 

" For my part," resumed the lady, " I am of the old 
Epicurean poet's mind. This world is a banquet, from 
which I shall be ready to depart when I have had my 
fill — ut conviva sat-ur* — and not till then. I wish to read 
life's book through, and close it calmly, only when I have 
finished its last page." 

Sebastian shook his head, smiling, and said, " The last 
pa ire of this world's book comes but in the middle of the 
volume, wherever ' death' may happen to be written. But 
on the next page begins the illuminated book of a new 
lite — without a last page." 

" I understand you," replied Fabiola, g'ood-humour- 
fillv; " you are a brave soldier, and you speak as such. 
You must be always prepared for death i'vom a thousand 
casualties : ire seldom see it approach suddenly; it comes 
more mercifully, and stealthily, upon the weak. You no 
(iouhf are musing on a more glorious fate, on receiving 
in front full sheaves of arrows from the enemy, and fallin° 
covered with honour. You look to the soldier's funeral 
pile, with trophies erected over it. To you, after death 
opens its bright page the book of glory." ' 

" Yo, no^ gentle lady," exclaimed Sebastian, emphatic- 
ally. " I mean not so. I care not for glory, which can 
oniy be enjoyed _ by an anticipating fancy. I speak of 
vulgar death, as it may come to me in common with the 
poorest slave ; consuming me by slow burning fever, wast- 
ing me by long lingering consumption, racking- me by 
slowly eating ulcers ; nay, if you please, by the still crueller 

* " As a sated guest." 



CH. VII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 177 

inflictions of men's wrath. In any form let it come j it 
comes from a hand that I love." 

" And do you really mean, that death, so contemplated, 
would be welcomed by you ?" 

" As joyful as is the epicure, when the doors of the 
banqueting-hall are thrown wide open, and he sees beyond 
them the brilliant lamps, the glittering table, and its de- 
licious viands, with its attendant ministers well girt, and 
crowned with roses; as blithe as is the bride when the 
bridegroom is announced, coming with rich gifts, to con- 
duct her to her new home, will my exulting heart be, when 
death, under whatever form, throws back the gates, iron 
on this side, but golden on the other, which lead to a new 
and perennial life. And I care not how grim the messenger 
may be, that proclaims the approach of Him who is celes- 
tially beautiful." 

" And who is He ?" asked Fabiola, eagerly. " Can 
He not be seen, save through the fleshless ribs of death ? " 

" No," replied Sebastian ; " for it is He who must 
reward us, not only for our lives, but for our deaths also. 
Happy they whose inmost hearts, which He has ever read, 
have been kept pure and innocent, as well as their deeds 
have been virtuous ! For them is this bright vision of Him, 
whose true rewards only then begin." 

How very like Syra's doctrines ! she thought. But 
before she could speak ag - ain, to ask whence they came, 
a slave entered, stood on the threshold, and respectfully 
said, 

" A courier, madam, is just arrived from Baiae."* 

" Pardon me, Sebastian !" she exclaimed. " Let him 
enter immediately." 

The messenger came in, covered with dust and jaded, 
having left his tired horse at the gate ; and offered her a 
sealed packet. 

Her hand trembled as she took it ; and while she was 
unloosening its bands, she hesitatingly asked, 

" From my father V 

" About him, at least," was the ominous reply. 

* A fashionable watering-place near Naples. 

N 



178 FABIOLA; OR, 

She opened the sheet, glanced over it, shrieked, and 
fell. Sebastian caught her before she reached the ground, 
laid her on a couch, and delicately left her in the hands of 
her handmaids, who had rushed in at the cry. 

One glance had told her all. Her father was dead. 



CHAPTER VHL 

DARKER STILL. 

When Sebastian came into the court, he found a little 
crowd of domestics gathered round the courier, listening 
to the details of their master's death. 

The letter of which Torquatus was the bearer to him, 
had produced its desired effect. He called at his villa, 
and spent a few days with his daughter, on his way to 
Asia. He was more than usually affectionate; and when 
they parted, both father and daughter seemed to have a 
melancholy foreboding that they would meet no more. 
He soon, however, recovered his spirits at Baiae, where a 
party of good livers anxiously awaited him; and where 
he considered himself obliged to stay, while his galley was 
being fitted up, and stored with the best wines and pro- 
visions which Campania afforded, for his voyage. He in- 
dulged, however, his luxurious tastes to excess ; and on 
coming out of a bath, after a hearty supper, he was seized 
with a chill, and in four-and-twenty hours was a corpse. 
He had left his undivided wealth to his only child. In 
fine, the body was being - embalmed when the courier started, 
and was to be brought by his galley to Ostia. 

On hearing this sad tale, Sebastian was almost sorry 
that he had spoken as he had done of death; and left the 
house with mournful thoughts. 

Fabiola's first plunge into the dark abyss of grief was 
deep and dismal, down into unconsciousness. Then the 
buoyancy of youth and mind bore her up again to the sur- 
face; and her view of life, to the horizon, was as of a 
boundless ocean of black seething - waves, on which floated 



CH. VIII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 179 

no living- thing save herself. Her woe seemed utter and 
unmeasured ; and she closed her eyes with a shudder, and 
suffered herself to sink ag-ain into obliviousness, till once 
more roused to wakefulness of mind. Again and again 
she was thus tossed up and down, between transient death 
and life, while her attendants applied remedies to what 
they deemed a succession of alarming fits and convulsions. 
At length she sat up, pale, staring, and tearless, gently 
pushing aside the hand that tried to administer restoratives 
to her. In this state she remained long ; a stupor, fixed 
and deadly, seemed to have entranced her ; the pupils were 
almost insensible to the light, and fears were whispered of 
her brain becoming- oppressed. The physician, who had 
been called, uttered distinctly and forcibly into her ears 
the question : " Fabiola, do you know that your father 
is dead ?" She started, fell back, and a bursting- flood of 
tears relieved her heart and head. She spoke of her father, 
and called for him amidst her sobs, and said wild and 
incoherent, but affectionate things about, and to, him. 
Sometimes she seemed to think him still alive, then she 
remembered he was dead ; and so she wept and moaned, 
till sleep took the turn of tears, in nursing her shattered 
mind and frame. 

Euphrosyne and Syra alone watched by her. The 
former had, from time to time, put in the commonplaces 
of heathen consolation, had reminded her too, how kind a 
master, how honest a man, how loving- a father he had 
been. But the Christian sat in silence, except to speak 
gentle and soothing- words to her mistress, and served her 
with an active delica.cy, which even then was not unnoticed. 
What could she do more, unless it was to pray ? What 
hope for else, than that a new grace was folded up, like a 
flower, in this tribulation ; that a bright angel was riding 
in the dark cloud that overshadowed her humbled lady ? 

As grief receded, it left some room for thought. This 
came to Fabiola in a gloomy and searching form. " What 
was become of her father ? Whither was he gone? Had 
he melted into unexistence, or had he been crushed into 
annihilation ? Had his life been searched through by that 
unseen eve which sees the invisible ? Had he stood the 



180 FABIOLA; OR, 

proof of that scrutiny which Sebastian and Syra had de- 
scribed ? Impossible ! Then what had become of him?" She 
shuddered as she thought, and put away the reflection from 
her mind. 

Oh, for a ray from some unknown light, that would dart 
into the grave, and show her what it was ! Poetry had pre- 
tended to enlighten it, and even glorify it ; but had only, 
in truth, remained at the door, as a genius with drooping 
head, and torch reversed. Science had stepped in, and 
come out scared, with tarnished wings, and lamp extin- 
guished in the foetid air; for it had only discovered a 
charnel-house. And philosophy had barely ventured to 
wander round and round, and peep in with dread, and re- 
coil, and then prate or babble; and, shrugging its shoul- 
ders, own, that the problem was yet unsolved, the mystery 
still veiled. Oh, for something, or some one, better than 
all these, to remove the dismal perplexity ! 

While these thoughts dwell like gloomy night on the 
heart of Fabiola, her slave is enjoying- the vision of light, 
clothed in mortal form, translucid and radiant, rising* from 
the gTave as from an alembic, in which have remained the 
grosser qualities of matter, without impairing the essence 
of its nature. Spiritualised and free, lovely and glorious, 
it springs from the very hot-bed of corruption. And an- 
other and another, from land and sea; from reeking ceme- 
tery, and from beneath consecrated altar ; from the tang'led 
thicket where solitary murder has been committed on the 
just, and from fields of ancient battle done by Israel for 
God; like crystal fountains springing - into the air, like 
brilliant signal-lights, darted from earth to heaven, till a 
host of millions, side by side, repeoples creation with joyous 
and undying life. And how knows she this ? Because One, 
greater and better than poet, sage, or sophist, had made the 
trial; had descended first into the dark couch of death, 
had blessed it, as He had done the cradle, and made infancy 
sacred ; rendering also death a holy thing, and its place a 
sanctuary. He went into it in the darkest of evening, and 
He came forth from it in the brig-htest of morning ; He was 
laid the/e wrapped in spices, and He rose again robed in His 
own fragrant incorruption. And from that day the grave 



CH. VIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 181 

had ceased to be an object of dread to the Christian soul ; 
for it continued what He had made it, — the furrow into 
which the seed of immortality must needs be cast. 

The time was not come for speaking' of these things to 
Fabiola. She mourned still, as they must mourn who have 
no hope. Day succeeded day in gloomy meditation on the 
mystery of death, till other cares mercifully roused her. 
The corpse arrived, and such a funeral followed as Rome 
then seldom witnessed. Processions by torch-light, in 
which the waxen effigies of ancestors were borne, and a huge 
funeral pile, built up of aromatic wood, and scented by the 
richest spices of Arabia, ended in her gathering' up a few 
handfuls of charred bones, which were deposited in an 
alabaster urn, and placed in a niche of the family sepulchre, 
with the name inscribed of their former owner. 

Calpurnius spoke the funeral oration; in which, accord- 
ing to the fashionable ideas of the day, he contrasted the 
virtues of the hospitable and industrious citizen with the 
false morality of those men called Christians, who fasted 
and prayed all day, and were stealthily insinuating their 
dangerous principles into every noble family, and spread- 
ing disloyalty and immorality in every clnss. Fabius, he 
could have no doubt, if there was any future existence, 
whereon philosophers differed, was now basking on a gTeen 
bank in Elysium, and quaffing' nectar. " And oh !" con- 
cluded the old whining hypocrite, who would have been 
sorry to exchange one g'oblet of Falernian for an amphora * 
of that beverage, " oh! that the gods would hasten the 
day when I, his humble client, may join him in his shady 
repose and sober banquets !" This noble sentiment gained 
immense applause. 

To this ca,re succeeded another. Fabiola had to apply 
her vigorous mind to examine, and close her father's com- 
plicated affairs. How often was she pained at the dis- 
covery of what to her seemed injustice, fraud, over-reach- 
ing- and oppression, in the transactions of one whom the 
world had applauded as the most honest and liberal of 
public contractors ! 

* A large earthenware vessel, in which wine was kept in the 
cellar. 



182 FABTOLA; OR, 

In a few weeks more, in the dark attire of a mourner, 
Fabiola went forth to visit her friends. The first of these 
was her cousin Agnes. 



CHAPTEE IX. 

THE FALSE BROTHER. 

We must take our reader back a few steps in the history 
of Torquatus. On the morning' after his fall, he found, on 
awaking, Fulvius at his bed-side. It was the falconer, who, 
having 1 got hold of a good hawk, was come to tame him, and 
train him to strike down the dove for him, in return for 
a well-fed slavery. With all the coolness of a practised 
hand, he broug'ht back to his memory every circumstance 
of the preceding night's debauch, his utter ruin, and only 
means of escape. With unfeeling precision he strengthened 
every thread of the last evening's web, and added many 
more meshes to it. 

The position of Torquatus was this : if he made one 
step towards Christianity, which Fulvius assured him would 
be fruitless, he would be at once delivered to the judge, and 
cruelly punished with death. If he remained faithful to 
his compact of treason, he should want for nothing. 

" You are hot and feverish," at last concluded Fulvius ; 
" an early walk, and fresh air, will do you good." 

The poor wretch consented ; and they had hardly reached 
the Forum, when Corvinus, as if by accident, met them. 
After mutual salutations, he said : " I am glad to have 
fallen in with you ; I should like to take you, and show 
you my father's workshop." 

"Workshop ?" asked Torquatus with surprise. 

" Yes, where he keeps his tools ; it has just been beau- 
tifully fitted up. Here it is, and that grim old foreman, 
Catulus, is opening the doors." 

They entered into a spacious court with a shed round 
it, filled with engines of torture of every form. Torquatus 
shrunk back. 

" Come in, masters, don't be afraid," said the old exe- 



CH. IX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 183 

cutioner. " There is no fire put on yet, and nobody will 
hurt you, unless you happen to he a wicked Christian. 
It's for them we have been polishing' up of late." 

"Now, Catulus," said Corvinus, "tell this gentleman, 
who is a stranger, the use of these pretty toys you have 
here." 

Catulus, with good heart, showed them round his mu- 
seum of horrors, explaining every thing with such hearty 
good-will, and no end of jokes not quite fit for record, that 
in his enthusiasm he nearly gave Torquatus practical illus- 
trations of what he described, having once almost caught 
his ear in a pair of sharp pincers, and another time brought 
down a mallet within an inch of his teeth. 

The rack, a large gridiron, an iron chair with a furnace 
in it for heating it, large boilers for hot oil or scalding- 
water baths; ladles for melting lead, and pouring it neatly 
into the mouth ; pincers, hooks and iron combs of varied 
shapes, for laying bare the ribs; scorpions, or scourges 
armed with iron or leaden knobs; iron collars, manacles 
and fetters of the most tormenting make ; in fine, swords, 
knives, and axes in tasteful varieties, were all commented 
upon with true relish, and an anticipation of much enjoy- 
ment, in seeing them used on those hard-headed and thick- 
skinned Christians.* 

Torquatus was thoroughly broken down. He was 
taken to the baths of Antoninus, where he caught the at- 
tention of old Cucumio, the head of the wardrobe depart- 
ment, or capsarius, and his wife Victoria, who had seen 
him at church. After a good refection, he was led to a 
g'ambling-hall in the Thermse, and lost, of course. Fulvius 
lent him money, but for every farthing, exacted a bond. By 
these means, he was, in a few days, completely subdued. 

Their meetings were early and late ; during the day 
he was left free, lest he should lose his value, through be- 
ing suspected by Christians. Corvinus had determined to 
make a tremendous dash at them, so soon as the Edict 
should have come out. He therefore exacted from Torqua- 
tus, as his share of the compact, that the spy should study 

* These instruments of cruelty are mentioned in the Acts of the 
Martyrs, and in ecclesiastical historians. 



184 fabiola; or, 

the principal cemetery where the pontiff intended to of- 
ficiate. This Torquatus soon ascertained; and his visit 
to the cemetery of Callistus was in fulfilment of his en- 
gagement. When that struggle between grace and sin 
took place in his soul, which Severus noticed, it was the 
image of Catulus and his hundred plagues, with that of 
Fulvius and his hundred bonds, that turned the scale in 
favour of perdition. Corvinus, after receiving his report, 
and making from it a rough chart of the cemetery, de- 
termined to assail it, early, the very day after the publica- 
tion of the Decree. 

Fulvius took another course. He determined to be- 
come acquainted, by sight, with the principal clergy, and 
leading Christians, of Rome. Once possessed of this know- 
ledge, he was sure no disguise would conceal them from 
his piercing eyes ; and he would easily pick them up, one 
by one. He therefore insisted upon Torquatus's taking him 
as his companion, to the first great function that should col- 
lect many priests and deacons round the Pope. He over- 
ruled every remonstrance, dispelled every fear; and assured 
Torquatus, that once in, by his password, he should behave 
perfectly like any Christian. Torquatus soon informed 
him, that there would be an excellent opportunity at the 
coming ordination, in that very month of December. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE ORDINATION IN DECEMBER. 

Whoever has rend the history of the early Popes, will 
have become familiar with the fact, recorded almost in- 
variably of each, that he held certain ordinations in the 
month of December, wherein he created so many priests, 
and deacons, and so many bishops for different places. 
The first two orders were conferred to supply clergy for the 
city ; the third was evidently to furnish pastors for other 
dioceses. In later times, the ember-days in December, 
regulated by the festival of St. Lucy, were those on 
which the Supreme Pontiff held his consistories, in which 



CH. X.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 185 

he named his cardinal priests and deacons, and preconised, 
as it is called, the bishops of all parts of the world. And, 
though this function is not now coincident with the periods 
of ordination, still it is continued essentially for the same 
purpose. 

Marcellinus, under whose pontificate our narrative is 
placed, is stated to have held two ordinations in this 
month, that is, of course, in different years. It was to 
one of these that we have alluded, as about to take place. 

Where was this solemn function to be performed, was 
Fulvius's first inquiry. And we cannot but think that the 
answer will be interesting 1 to the Christian antiquary. Nor 
can our acquaintance with the ancient Roman Church be 
complete, without our knowing - the favoured spot, where 
Pontiff after Pontiff preached, and celebrated the divine 
mysteries, and held his councils, or those glorious ordi- 
nations, which sent forth not only bishops but martyrs to 
govern other churches, and gave to a St. Laurence his dia- 
conate, or to St. Novatus or St. Timotheus his priesthood. 
There, too, a Polycarp or Irenseus visited the successor of 
St. Peter; and thence received their commission the apostles 
who converted our King- Lucius to the faith. 

The house which the Roman Pontiffs inhabited, and 
the church in which they officiated, till Constantine in- 
stalled them in the Lateran palace and basilica, the resi- 
dence and cathedral of the illustrious line of martyr-popes 
for 300 years, can be no ignoble spot. And that, in tracing 
it out, we may not be misguided by national or personal 
prepossession, we will follow a learned living- antiquarian, 
who, intent upon another research, accidentally has put 
together all the data requisite for our purpose.* 

We have described the house of Agnes's parents as 
situated in the Vicus Patrichis, or the Patrician-street. 
This had another name, for it was also called the street of 
the Cornelii, Vims Corneliorum, because in it lived the 
illustrious family of that name. The centurion whom St. 

* " Sopra l'antichissimo altare di legno, rinchiuso nelP altare 
papale," &c. " On the most ancient wooden altar, enclosed in the 
papal altar of the most holy Lateran basilica." By Monsig. D. 
Bartolini. Home, 1852. 



186 fabiola; or, 

Peter converted* belonged to this family; and possibly 
to him the apostle owed his introduction at Rome to the 
head of his house, Cornelius Pudens. This senator married 
Claudia, a noble British lady ; and it is singular how the 
unchaste poet Martial vies with the purest writers, when 
he sings the wedding-song of these two virtuous spouses. 

It was in their house that St. Peter lived; and his 
fellow-apostle St. Paul enumerates them among his familiar 
friends, as well : "Eubulus and Pudens, and Linus and Clau- 
dia, and all the brethren salute thee."f From that house, 
then, went forth the bishops, whom the Prince of the Apos- 
tles sent in every direction, to propagate, and die for, the 
faith of Christ. After the death of Pudens, the house 
became the property of his children, or grandchildren, J 
two sons and two daughters. The latter are better known, 
because they have found a place in the general calendar of 
the Church, and because they have given their names to 
two of the most illustrious churches of Rome, those of St. 
Praxedes and St. Pudentiana. It is the latter, which Alban 
Butler calls " the most ancient church in the world, "§ that 
marks at once the Vicus Patricius, and the house of Pudens. 

As in every other city, so in Rome, the eucharistic 
sacrifice was offered originally in only one place, by the 
bishop. And even after more churches were erected, ard 
the faithful met in them, communion was brought to them 
from the one altar by the deacons, and distributed by the 
priests. It was Pope Evaristus, the fourth successor of 
St. Peter, who multiplied the churches of Rome with cir- 
cumstances peculiarly interesting. 

This Pope, then, did two things. First, he enacted 
that from thenceforward no altars should be erected except 
of stone, and that they should be consecrated; and secondly, 
" he distributed the titles ;" that is, he divided Rome into pa- 
rishes, to the churches of which he gave the name of "title." 
The connection of these two acts will be apparent to any 
one looking at Genesis xxviii. ; where, after Jacob had en- 

* Acts x. 

+ 2 Tim iv. 21. 

| A second or younger Pudens is spoken of. 

§ May the 19 th. 



CH. X.] TKE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 187 

joyed an angelic vision, while sleeping with a stone for his 
pillow, we are told that, " trembling he said, How terrible 
is this place ! This is no other than the house of God, 
and the gate of heaven. And Jacob arising in the morn- 
ing took the stone, .... and set it up for a title, pouring 
oil on the top of it."* 

The church or oratory, where the sacred mysteries were 
celebrated, was truly, to the Christian, the house of God ; 
and the stone altar, set up in it, was consecrated by the 
pouring of oil upon it, as is done to this day (for the whole 
law of Evaristus remains in full force) ; and thus became 
a title, or monument.t 

Two interesting facts are elicited from this narrative. 
One is, that to that time there was only one church with 
an altar in Rome ; and no doubt has ever been raised, that 
this was the church afterwards, and yet, known by the name 
of St. Pudentiana. Another is, that the one altar till then 
existing - was not of stone. It was, in fact, the wooden altar 
used by St. Peter, and kept in that church, till transferred 
by St. Sylvester to the Lateran basilica, of which it forms 
the high altar.J We further conclude, that the law was 
not retrospective, and that the wooden altar of the Popes 
was preserved at that church, where it had been first 
erected, though from time to time it might be carried, and 
used elsewhere. 

The church in the Vicus Patricius, therefore, which 
existed previous to the creation of titles, was not itself 
a title. It continued to be the episcopal, or rather the 
pontifical church of Rome. The pontificate of St. Pius I., 
from 142 to 157, forms an interesting period in its history, 
for two reasons. 

First, that Pope, without altering the character of the 
church itself, added to it an oratory which he made a 

* Verses 17, 18. 

f It is not necessary to go into the classical uses of the word 
titulus. 

J Only the Pope can say Mass on it, or a cardinal, by authority 
of a special bull. This high altar has been lately magnificently de- 
corated. A plank of the wooden altar has always been preserved in 
St. Peter's altar, at St. Pudentiana's. It has been lately compared 
with the wood of the Lateran altar, and found to be identical. 



188 

title ;* and having collated to it his brother Pastor, it was 
called the titulus Pastoris, the designation, for a long 
time, of the cardinalate attached to the church. This 
shows that the church itself was more than a title. 

Secondly, in this pontificate came to Rome, for the 
second time, and suffered martyrdom, the holy and learned 
apologist St. Justin. By comparing his writings with his 
Acts,f we come to some interesting conclusions respecting 
Christian worship in times of persecution. 

" In what place do the Christians meet ?" he is asked 
by tbe judge. 

" Do you think," he replies, " that we all meet in one 
place ? It is not so." But when interrogated where he 
lived, and where he held meetings with his disciples, he 
answered, " I have lived till now near the house of a certain 
Martin, at the bath known as the Timotine. I have come 
to Rome for the second time, nor do I know any other 
place but the one I have mentioned." The Timotine or 
Timothean baths were part of the house of the Pudens 
family, and are those at which we have said that Pulvius 
and Corvinus met early one morning. Novatus and Ti- 
motheus were the brothers of the holy virgins Praxedes 
and Pudentiana; and hence the baths were called the 
Novatian and the Timotine, as they passed from one bro- 
ther to another. 

St. Justin, therefore, lived on this spot, and, as he knew 
no other in Rome, attended divine worship there. The 
very claims of hospitality would suggest it. Now in his 
apology, describing the Christian liturgy, of course such 
as he saw it, he speaks of the officiating priest in terms that 
sufficiently describe the bishop, or supreme pastor of the 
place ; not only by giving him a title applied to bishops 
in antiquity,! but by describing him as the person who 
has the care of orphans and widows, and succours the sick, 
the indigent, prisoners, strangers who come as guests, 

* Its site is now occupied by the Caetani chapel. 

t Prefixed to the Maurist edition of his works, or in Euinart, i. 

% O irpozo-Tas, propositus, see Heb. xiii. 17. O toic Pou/iaian' 
7r/joE(TT«s BiKTup, " Victor bishop of the Romans." Euseb. H. E. 1. 
v. 2-1. The Greek word used is the same as in St. Justin. 



CH. X.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 189 

who, " in one word, undertakes to provide for all in want." 
This could be no other than the bishop or pope himself. 

We must further observe, that St. Pius is recorded to 
have erected a fixed baptismal font in this church, another 
prerogative of the cathedral, transferred with the papal 
altar to the Lateran. It is related that the holy Pope 
Stephen (a.d. 257) baptised the tribune Nemesius and his 
family, with many others, in the title of Pastor.* And 
here it was that the blessed deacon Laurentius distributed 
the rich vessels of the Church to the poor. 

In time this name has given way to another. But the 
place is the same ; and no doubt can exist, that the church 
of St. Pudentiana was, for the first three centuries, the 
humble cathedral of Rome. 

It was to this spot, therefore, that Torquatus unwil- 
lingly consented to lead Fulvius, that he might witness 
the December ordination. 

. We find either in sepulchral inscriptions, in martyr- 
ologies, or in ecclesiastical history, abundant traces of all 
the orders, as still conferred in the Catholic Church. In- 
scriptions perhaps more commonly record those of Lector 
or reader, and of Exorcist. We will give one interesting 
example of each. Of a Lector : 

CINNAMIVS OPAS LECTOR TITVLI FASCIOLE AMICVS PAVPERVM 
QVI VIXIT ANN. XLVI. MENS. VII. D. VIII. DEPOSIT IN PACE 
X. KAL. MART.t 

Of an Exorcist : 

MACEDONIVS 

EXORCISTA DE KATOLlCA.t 

* The learned Bianchini plausibly conjectures that the station on 
Easter Sunday is not at the Lateran (the cathedral), nor at St. 
Peter's, where the Pope officiates, at one of which it would natu- 
rally be expected to be, but at the Liberian basilica, because it used 
to be held for the administration of baptism at St. Pudentiana' s, 
which is only a stone's throw from it. 

j- " Cinnamius Opas Lector, of the title of Fasciola" (now SS. 
Nereus and Achilleus), " the friend of the poor, who lived forty-six 
years, seven months, and eight days. Interred in peace the tenth 
day before the calends of March.'' From St. Paul's. 

t " Macedonius, an exorcist of the Catholic Church." From the 
cemetery of SS. Thraso and Saturninus, on the Salarian way. 



190 

A difference was, however, that one order was not 
necessarily a passage, or step, to another ; but persons re- 
mained, often for life, in one of these lesser orders. There 
was not, therefore, that frequent administration of these, 
nor probably was it publicly performed with the higher 
orders. 

Torquatus, having 1 the necessary pass-word, entered, 
accompanied by Fulvius, who soon showed himself expert 
in acting as others did around him. The assembly was 
not large. It was held in a hall of the house, converted 
into a church or oratory, which was mainly occupied by 
the clergy, and the candidates for orders. Among the latter 
were Marcus and Marcellianus, the twin brothers, fellow- 
converts of Torquatus, who received the deaconship, and 
their father Tranquillinus, who was ordained priest. Of 
these Fulvius impressed well in his mind the features and 
figure ; and still more did he take note of the clergy, the 
most eminent of Rome, there assembled. But on one, 
more than the rest, he fixed his piercing eye, studying his 
every gesture, look, voice, and lineament. 

This was the Pontiff who performed the august rite. 
Marcellinus had already governed the Church six years, 
and was of a venerable old aare. His countenance, benig'n 
and mild, scarcely seemed to betoken the possession of that 
nerve which martyrdom required, and which he exhibited 
in his death for Christ. In those days every outward cha- 
racteristic which could have betrayed the chief shepherd 
to the wolves was carefully avoided. The ordinary simple 
garb of respectable men was worn. But there is no doubt 
that when officiating at the altar, a distinctive robe, the 
forerunner of the ample chasuble, of spotless white, was 
cast over the ordinary garment. To this the bishop added 
a crown, or infula, the origin of the later mitre; while in 
his hand he held the crosier, emblem of his pastoral office 
and authority. 

On him who now stood facing the assembly, before the 
sacred altar of Peter, which was between him and the 
people,* the Eastern spy steadied his keenest glance. He 

* In the great and old basilicas of Rome the celebrant faces the 
faithful. 



CH. XI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 191 

scanned lrim minutely, measured, with his eye, his height, 
defined the colour of his hair and complexion, observed 
every turn of his head, his walk, his action, his tones, almost 
his breathing-, till he said to himself, " If he stirs abroad, 
disguised as he may choose, that man is my prize. And I 
know his worth." 



CHAPTER XI. 



PRIE IVN PAVSA 
BET PRAETIOSA 
ANNORVM PVLLA 
VIRGO XII TANTVM 
ANCILLA DEI ET XPI 
FL. VINCENTIO ET 
FRAVITO . VC " CONSS 



If the learned Thomassinus had known this lately-dis- 
covered inscription, when he proved, with such abundance 
of learning - , that virginity could be professed in the early 
Church, at the age of twelve, he would certainly have 
quoted it.f For can we doubt that " the girl who was a 
virgin of only twelve years old, a handmaid of God and 
Christ," was such by consecration to God? Otherwise, 
the more tender her age, the less wonderful her state of 
maidenhood. 

But although this, the nubile age, according to Roman 
law, was the one at which such dedication to God was 
permitted by the Church, she reserved to a maturer period 
that more solemn consecration, when the veil of virginity 
was given by the bishop ; generally on Easter Sunday. 

* " The day before the first of June, ceased to live Prsetiosa, a 
girl (puclla), a virgin of only twelve years of age, the handmaid of 
God and of Christ. In the consulship of Flavins Vincentius, and 
Fravitus, a consular man." Found in the cemetery of Callistus. 

f Vetus et Nova Ecclesice Disciplina ; circa Beneficia. Par. L 
lib. iii. (Luc. 1727.) 



192 

That first act probably consisted of nothing more than re- 
ceiving- from the hands of parents a plain dark dre.-s. But 
when any dang'er threatened, the Church permitted the 
anticipation, by many years, of that period, and fortified 
the spouses of Christ in their holy purpose, by her more 
solemn blessing.* 

A persecution of the most savage character was on the 
point of breaking - out, which would not spare the most 
tender of the flock ; and it was no wonder that they, who 
m their hearts had betrothed themselves to the Lamb, 
as His chaste spouses for ever, should desire to come to 
His nuptials before death. They longed naturally to bear 
the full-grown lily, entwined round the palm, should this 
be their portion. 

Agues had from her infancy chosen for herself this 
holiest state. The superhuman wisdom which had ever ex- 
hibited itself in her words and actions, blending so grace- 
fully with the simplicity of an innocent and guileless child- 
hood, rendered her ripe, beyond her years, for any measure 
of indulgence, which could be granted, to hearts that panted 
for their chaste bridal-hour. She eagerly seized on the 
claim that coming danger gave her, to a more than usual 
relaxation of that law, which prescribed a delay of more 
than ten years in the fulfilling - of her desire. Another 
postulant joined her in this petition. 

We may easily imagine that a holy friendship had 
been growing between her and Syra, from the first inter- 
view which we have described between them. This feeling 
had been increased by all that Ag-nes had heard Fabiola 
say, in praise of her favourite servant. From this, and 
from the slave's more modest reports, she was satisfied 
that the work to which she had devoted herself, of her 
mistress's conversion, must be entirely left in her hands. 
It was evidently prospering, owing- to the prudence and 
grace with which it was conducted. In her frequent visits 
to Fabiola, she contented herself with admiring and ap- 
proving what her cousin related of Syra's conversations ; 
but she carefully avoided every expression that could 
raise suspicion of any collusion between them. 
* Thomass. p. 792. 



CH. XI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 193 

Syra as a dependant, and Agues as a relation, had put 
on mourning- upon Fabius's death ; and hence no change of 
habit -would raise suspicion in his daughter's mind, of their 
having - taken some secret, or some joint step. Thus far 
they could safely ask to be admitted at once to receive 
the solemn consecration to perpetual virginity. Their 
petition was granted; but for obvious reasons was kept 
carefully concealed. It was only a day or two before the 
happy one of their spiritual nuptials, that Syra told it, as 
a great secret, to her blind friend. 

" And so," said the latter, pretending' to be displeased, 
" you want to keep all the good things to yourself. Do 
you call that charitable, now ?" 

"My clear child," said 'Syra, soothingly, "don't be 
offended. It was necessary to keep it quite a secret." 

" And therefore, I suppose, poor I must not even be 
present ?" 

" Oh, yes, Coscilia, to be sure you may; and see all 
that you can," replied Syra, laughing. 

" Never mind about the seeing. But tell me, how 
will you be dressed? What have you to get ready?" 

Syra gave her an exact description of the habit and 
veil, their colour and form. 

" How very interesting !" she said. " And what have 
you to do ?" 

The other, amused at her unwonted curiosity, described 
minutely the short ceremonial. 

" Well now, one question more," resumed the blind 
girl. " When and where is all this to be ? You said I 
might come, so I must know the time and place." 

Syra told her it would be at the title of Pastor, at 
daybreak, on the third day from that. " But, what has 
made you so inquisitive, dearest ? I never saw you so 
before. I am afraid you are becoming quite worldly." 

" Never you mind," replied Ccecilia, "if people choose 
to have secrets for me, I do not see why I should not have 
some of my own." 

Syra laughed at her affected pettishness, for she knew 
well the humble simplicity of the poor child's heart. Thev 
embraced affectionately and parted. Ctecilia went straight 

o 



194 

to the kind Lucina, for she was a favourite in every house. 
iNo sooner was she admitted to that pious matron's pre- 
sence, than she flew to her, threw herself upon her bosom, 
and burst into tears. Lucina soothed and caressed her, 
and soon composed her. In a few minutes she was again 
bright and joyous, and evidently deep in conspiracy, with 
the cheerful ladv, about something which delisrhted her. 
When she left she was all buoyant and blithe, and went 
to the house of Agnes, in the hospital of which the good 
priest Dionysius lived. She found him at home ; and 
casting - herself on her knees before him, talked so fervently 
to him, that he was moved to tears, and spoke kindly and 
consolingly to her. The Tc Deum had not yet been 
written ; but something very like it rang - in the blind girl's 
heart, as she went to her humble home. 

The happy morning at length arrived, and before day- 
break the more solemn mysteries had been celebrated, and 
the body of the faithful had dispersed. Only those re- 
mained who had to take part in the more private function, 
or who were specially asked to witness it. These were 
Lucina and her son, the aged parents of Agnes, and of 
course Sebastian. But Syra looked in vain for her blind 
friend ; she had evidently retired with the crowd ; and the 
g-entle slave feared she might have hurt her feelings by 
her reserve, before their last interview. 

The hall was still shrouded in the dusk of a winter's 
twilight, although the glowing east, without, foretold a 
bright December day. On the altar burned perfumed 
tapers of large dimensions, and round it were gold and 
silver lamps of great value, throwing an atmosphere of 
mild radiance upon the sanctuary. In front of the altar 
was placed the chair no less venerable than itself, now en- 
shrined in the Vatican, the chair of Peter. On this was 
seated the venerable Pontiff, with staff in hand, and crown 
on head, and round him stood his ministers, scarcely less 
worshipful than himself. 

From the gioom of the chapel, there came forth first 
the sound of sweet voices, like those of angels, chanting in 
soft cadence, a hymn, which anticipated the sentiments 
soon after embodied in the 



C1I. XI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 195 

" Jesu corona virginum."* 

Then there emerged into the light of the sanctuary the 
procession of already consecrated virgins, led by the priests 
and deacons who had charge of them. And in the midst 
of them appeared two, whose dazzling white garments 
shone the brighter amidst their dark habits. These were 
the two new postulants, who, as the rest denied and 
formed a line on either side, were conducted, each by two 
professed, to the foot of the altar, where they knelt at the 
Pontiff's feet. Their bridesmaids, or sponsors, stood near 
to assist in the function. 

Each as she came was asked solemnly what she de- 
sired, and expressed her wish to receive the veil, and prac- 
tise its duties, under the care of those chosen guides. For, 
although consecrated virgins had begun to live in com- 
munity before this period, yet many continued to reside 
at home ; and persecution interfered with enclosure. Still 
there was a place in church, boarded off for the consecrated 
virgins ; and they often met apart, for particular instruction 
and devotions. 

The bishop then addressed the young aspirants, in 
glowing and affectionate words. He told them how high 
a call it was to lead on earth the lives of ang'els, who 
neither marry nor give in marriage, to tread the same 
chaste path to heaven which the Incarnate "Word chose 
for His own Mother; and arrived there, to be received 
into the pure ranks of that picked host, that follows the 
Lamb whithersoever He goeth. He expatiated on the 
doctrine of St. Paul, writing- to the Corinthians on the 
superiority of virginity to every other state ; and he feel- 
ingly described the happiness of having - no love on earth 
but one, which instead of fading, opens out into immor- 
tality, in heaven. For bliss, he observed, is but the ex- 
panded flower which Divine love bears on earth. 

After this brief discourse, and an examination of the 
candidates for this great honour, the holy Pontiff proceeded 
to bless the different portions of their religious habits, by 
prayers probably nearly identical with those now in use ; 

* " Jesus the virgin's crown," the hymn for virgins. 



19(3 

and these were put on them by their respective attendants. 
The new religious laid their heads upon the altar, in token 
of their oblation of self. But in the West, the hair was 
not cut, as it was in the East, but was always left long. A 
wreath of flowers was then placed upon the head of each ; 
and though it was winter, the well-guarded terrace of 
Fabiola had been made to furnish bright and fragrant 
blossoms. 

All seemed ended ; and Agnes, kneeling at the foot of 
the altar, was motionless in one of her radiant raptures, 
gazing fixedly upwards ; while Syra, near her, was bowed 
down, sunk into the depths of her gentle humility, wonder- 
ing how she should have been found worthy of so much 
favour. So absorbed were both in their thanksgiving, that 
they perceived not a slight commotion through the as- 
sembly, as if something unexpected was occurring-. 

They were aroused by the bishop repeating the ques- 
tion : " My daughter, what dost thou seek ?" when, before 
they could look round, each felt a hand seized, and heard 
the answer returned in a voice dear to both : " Holy 
father, to receive the veil of consecration to Jesus Christ, 
my only love on earth, under the care of these two holy 
virgins, already His happy spouses." 

They were overwhelmed with joy and tenderness ; for 
it was the poor blind Cecilia. When she heard of the 
happiness that awaited Syra, she had flown, as we have 
seen, to the kind Lucina, who soon consoled her, by sug- 
gesting to her the possibility of obtaining a similar grace. 
She promised to furnish all that was necessary ; only Cae- 
cilia insisted that her dress should be coarse, as became a 
poor beggar-girl. The priest Dionysius presented to the Pon- 
tiff, and obtained the grant of, her prayer; and as she wished 
to have her two friends for sponsors, it was arranged that 
he should lead her up to the altar after their consecration. 
Csecilia, however, kept her secret. 

The blessings were spoken, and the habit and veil put 
on ; when they asked her if she had brought no wreath of 
flowers. Timidly she drew from under her garment the 
crown she had provided, a bare, thorny branch, twisted 
into a circle, and presented it, saying : 



CH. XII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 197 

" I have no flowers to offer to my Bridegroom, neither 
did He wear flowers for me. I am but a poor girl, and 
do you tliink my Lord will be offended, if I ask Him to 
crown me, as He was pleased to be crowned Himself? 
And then, flowers represent virtues in those that wear 
them ; but my barren heart has produced nothing better 
than these." 

She saw not, with her blind eyes, how her two com- 
panions snatched the wreaths from their heads, to put on 
hers ; but a sign from the Pontiff checked them ; and 
amidst moistened eyes, she was led forth, all joyous, in her 
thorny crown ; emblem of what the Chinch has always 
taught, that the very queenship of virtue is, innocence 
crowned by penance. 



CHAPTER XII. 

THE XOJrESIAN VILLA. 

The Nomentan road poes from Rome eastward, and be- 
tween it and the Salarian is a deep ravine, beyond which 
on the side of the Nomentan way lies a gracefully undu- 
lating ground. Amidst this is situated a picturesque 
round temple, and near it a truly beautiful basilica, dedi- 
cated to St. Agnes. Here was the villa belonging to her, 
situated about a mile and a half from the city ; and thither 
it had been arranged that the two, now the three, newly 
consecrated should repair, to spend the clay in retirement 
and tranquil joy. Pew more such days, perhaps, would 
tver be granted them. 

We need not describe this rural residence, except to 
say that every thing in it breathed contentment and hap- 
piness. It was one of those genial days which a Roman 
winter supplier. The rugged Apennines were slightly pow- 
dered with snow ; the ground was barely crisp, the atmo- 
sphere transparent, the sunshine glowing-, and the heavens 
cloudless. A few greyish curls of melting smoke from the 
cottages, and the leafless vines, alone told that it was 
December. Every thing living seemed to know and love 



198 

the gentle mistress of the place. The doves came and 
perched upon her shoulder or her hand ; the lambs in the 
paddock frisked, and ran to her the moment she approached, 
and took the green fragrant herbs which she brought them, 
with evident pleasure ; but none owned her kindly sway so 
much as old Molossus, the enormous watchdog. Chained 
beside the gate, so fierce was he, that none but a few 
favourite domestics durst go near him. But no sooner did 
Agnes appear, than he crouched down, and wag"ged his 
bushy tail, and whined, till he was let loose ; for now a 
child might approach him. He never left his mistress's 
side ; he followed her like a lamb ; and if she sat down, 
he would lie at her feet, looking into her face, delighted to 
receive, on his huge head, the caresses of her slender hand. 

It was indeed a peaceful day; sometimes calm and 
quiet, soft and tender, as the three spoke together of the 
morning's happiness, and of the happier morning of which 
it was a pledge, above the liquid amber of their present 
skies ; sometimes cheerful and even merry, as the two 
took Csecilia to task for the trick she had played them. 
And she laughed cheerily, as she always did, and told 
them she had a better trick in store for them yet ; which 
was, that she would cut them out, when that next morn- 
ing came ; for she intended to be the first at it, and not 
the last. 

Fabiola had, in the meantime, come to the villa to pay 
her first visit to Agnes after her calamity, and to thank 
her for her sympathy. She walked forward, but stopped 
suddenly on coming near the spot where this happy group 
were assembled. For when she beheld the two who could 
see the outward brightness of heaven, hanging over her 
who seemed to hold all its splendour within her soul, she 
saw at once, in the scene, the verification of her dream. 
Yet unwilling 1 to intrude herself unexpectedly upon them, 
and anxious to find Agues alone, and not with her own slave 
and a poor blind girl, she turned away before she was no- 
ticed, and walked towards a distant part of the grounds. 
Still she could not help asking herself, why she coidd not 
be cheerful and happy as they ? Why was there a gulf 
between them ? 



CH. XII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 199 

But the day was not destined to finish without its clouds ; 
it would have been too blissful for earth. Besides Fabiola, 
another person had started from Rome, to pay a less wel- 
come visit to Agnes. This was Fulvius, who had never 
forgotten the assurances of Fabius, that his fascinating ad- 
dress and brilliant ornaments had turned the weak head of 
Agnes. He had waited till the first days of mourning 
were over, and he respected the house in which he had 
once received such a rude reception, or rather suffered 
such a summary ejectment. Having- ascertained that, for 
the first time, she had gone without her parents, or any 
male attendants, to her suburban villa, he considered it a 
good opportunity for pressing his suit. He rode out of 
the Nomentnn gate, and was soon at Agnes's. He dis- 
mounted ; said he wished to see her on important business, 
and, after some importunity, was admitted by the porter. 
He was directed along a walk, at the end of which she 
would be found. The sun was declining - , and her com- 
panions had strolled to a distance; and she was sitting- 
alone in a bright sunny spot, with old Molossus crouching 
at her feet. The slightest approach to a g'rowl from him, 
rare when he was with her, made her look up from her 
work of tying together such winter flowers as the others 
brought her, while she suppressed, by raising a finger, 
this expression of instinctive dislike. 

Fulvius came near with a respectful, but freer air than 
usual, as one already assured of his request. 

"I have come, Lady Agnes," he said, "to renew to 
you the expression of my sincere regard ; and I could not 
have chosen a better day, for brighter or fairer scarcely 
the summer sun could have bestowed." 

" Fair, indeed, and bright it has been to me," replied 
Agnes, borne back in mind to the morning's scene ; " and 
no sun in my life has ever given me fairer, — it can only 
give me one more fair." 

Fulvius was flattered, as if the compliment was to his 
presence, and answered, " The day, no doubt you mean, of 
your espousals with one who may have won your heart." 

"That is indeed clone," she replied, as if unconsciously; 
" and this is his own precious day." 



200 fabiola; or, 

" And was that wreathed veil upon ycmr head, placed 
there in anticipation of this happy hour ?" 

" Yes ; it is the sign my beloved has placed upon my 
countenance, that I recognise no lover hut himself.''* 

" And who is this happy heing ? I was not without 
hopes, nor will I renounce them yet, that I have a place 
m your thoughts, perhaps in your affections." 

Agnes seemed scarcely to heed his words. There was 
no appearance of shyness or timidity in her looks or man- 
ner, no embarrassment even: 

" Spotless without, and innocent within, 
She feared no danger, for she knew no sin." 

Her childlike countenance remained brig-lit, open, and 
guileless ; her eyes, mildly beaming, looked straight upon 
Fulvius's face with an earnest simplicity, that made hini 
almost quail before her. She stood up now, with graceful 
dignity, as she replied : 

" Milk and honey exhaled from his lips, as the blood 
from his stricken cheek impressed itself on mine."f 

She is crazed, Fulvius was just beginning to think; when 
the inspired look of her countenance, and the clear bright- 
ness other eye, as she gazed forwards towards some object 
seen by herself alone, overawed and subdued him. She 
recovered in an instant ; and again he took heart. He re- 
solved at once to pursue his demand. 

"Madam," he said, "you are trifling with one who 
sincerely admires and loves you. I know from the best au- 
thority, — yes, the best authority, — that of a mutual friend 
departed, that you have been pleased to think favourably of 
me, and to express yourself not opposed to my urging my 
claims to your hand. I now, therefore, seriously and ear- 
nestly solicit it. I may seem abrupt and informal, but I 
am sincere and warm." 

"Begone from me, food of corruption!" she said 
with calm majesty ; " for already a lover has secured my 

* " Posuit signum in faciem meam, ut nullum prseter eum amato- 
rem admittam." Office of St. Agnes. 

■f " Mel et lac ex ejus ore suscepi, et sanguis ejus ornavit genas 
meas." Ibid. 



CH. XII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 201 

heart, for whom alone I keep my troth, to whom I intrust 
myself with undivided devotion ; one whose love is chaste, 
whose caress is pure, whose brides never put off their vir- 
ginal wreaths."* 

Fulvius, who had dropped on his knee as he concluded 
his last sentence, and had thus drawn forth that severe re- 
buke, rose, filled with spite and fury, at having been so 
completely deluded. " Is it not enough to be rejected," 
he said, " after having been encouraged, but must insult 
be heaped on me too ? and must I be told to my face that 
another has been before me to-day 1 — Sebastian, I suppose, 
again " 

" Who are you ?" exclaimed an indig - nant voice behind 
him, " that dare to utter with disdain, the name of one 
whose honour is untarnished, and whose virtue is as un- 
challenged as his courage ?" 

He turned round, and stood confronted with FabioJa, 
who, having walked for some time aboiit the garden, 
thought she would now probably find her cousin disen- 
gaged, and by herself. She had come upon him sud- 
denly, and had caught his last words. 

Fulvius was abashed, and remained silent. 

Fabiola, with a noble indignation, continued. " And 
who, too, are you, who, not content with having once 
thrust yourself into my kinswoman's house, to insult her, 
presume now to intrude upon the privacy of her rural re- 
treat ?" 

" And who are you," retorted Fulvius, " who take 
upon yourself to be imperious mistress in another's house ?" 

" One," replied the lady, "who, by allowing my cousin 
to meet you first at her table, and there discovering your 
designs upon an innocent child, feels herself bound in 
honour and duty to thwart them, and to shield her from 
them." 

She took Agnes by the hand, and was leading her 
away ; and Molossus required what he never remembered 

* " Discede a me pabulum mortis, quia jam ab alio amatore praj- 
venta sum." " Ipsi soli servo fidem, ipsi me tota devotione com- 
mitto.'' " Quem cum aniavero casta sum, cum tetigero munda sum 
cuiu accepero virgo sum." Ibid. 



302 

to have received before, but what he took delightedly, a 
gentle little tap, to keep him from more than growling ; 
when Fulvius, gnashing his teeth, muttered audibly : 

" Haughty Roman dame ! thou shalt bitterly rue this 
day and hour. Thou shalt know and feel how Asia can 
revenge." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE EDICT. 

The day being at length arrived for its publication in 
Rome, Corvinus fully felt the importance of the commis- 
sion intrusted to him, of affixing in its proper place in the 
Forum, the edict of extermination against the Christians, 
or rather the sentence of extirpation of their very name. 
News had been received from Nicodemia, that a brave 
Christian soldier, named George, had torn down a similar 
imperial decree, and had manfully suffered death for his 
boldness. Corvinus was determined that nothing of the 
sort should happen in Rome ; for he feared too seriously 
the consequences of such an occurrence to himself; he 
therefore took every precaution in his power. The edict 
had been written in large characters, upon sheets of parch- 
ment joined together ; and these were nailed to a board, 
firmly supported by a pillar, against which it was hung, 
not far from the Puteal Libonis, the magistrate's chair in 
the Forum. This, however, was not done till the Forum 
was deserted, and night had well set in. It was thus in- 
tended that the edict should meet the eyes of the citizens 
early in the morning, and strike their minds with more 
tremendous effect. 

To prevent the possibility of any nocturnal attempt to 
destroy the precious document, Corvinus, with much the 
same cunning precaution as was taken by the Jewish 
priests to prevent the Resurrection, obtained for a night- 
gmard to the Forum, a company of the Pannonian cohort, 
a body composed of soldiers belonging to the fiercest races 
of the North, Dacians, Pannonians, Sarmatians, and Ger- 



CH. XIII. \ THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 203 

mans, whose uncouth features, savage aspect, matted sandy 
hair, and bushy red moustaches, made them appear abso- 
lutely ferocious to Roman eyes. These men could scarcely 
speak Latin, but were ruled by officers of their own coun- 
tries, and formed, in the decline of the empire, the most 
faithful body-guard of the reigning tyrants, often their 
fellow-countrymen ; for there was no excess too monstrous 
for them to commit, if duly commanded to execute it. 

A number of these savages, ever rough and ready, 
were distributed so as to guard every avenue of the Forum, 
with strict orders to pierce through, or hew down, any one 
who should attempt to pass without the watchword, or 
symbolum. This was every night distributed by the gene- 
ral in command, through his tribunes and centurions, to 
all the troops. But to prevent all possibility of any Chris- 
tian making use of it that night, if he should chance to 
discover it, the cunning Corvinus had one chosen, which 
he felt sure no Christian would use. It was numen im- 
peratorum : the " Divinity of the Emperors." 

The last thing which he did was to make his rounds, 
giving- to each sentinel the strictest injunctions ; and most 
minutely to the one whom he had placed close to the edict. 
This man had been chosen for his post on account of his 
rude strength and huge bulk, and the peculiar ferocity of 
his looks and character. Corvinus gave him the most 
rigid instructions, how he was to spare nobody, but to pre- 
vent any one's interference with the sacred edict. He 
repeated to him again and again the watchword; and left 
him, already half-stupid with sabaia or beer,* in the merest 
animal consciousness, that it was his business, not an un- 
pleasant one, to spear, or sabre, some one or other before 
morning - . The night was raw and gusty, with occasional 
sharp and slanting showers ; and the Dacian wrapped him- 
self in his cloak, and walked up and down, occasionally 
taking- a long- pull at a flask concealed about him, contain- 
ing a liquor said to be distilled from the wild cherries of the 

* " Est autem sabaia ex hordco vel fmmento in liquorem con- 
versis paupertinus in Iltyrico potus." " Sabaia is the drink of the 
poor in Illyria, made of barley or wheat, transformed into a liquid." 
Ammian. Marcellinus, lib. xxvi. 8, p, 422, ed, Lips. 



204 FABIOLA; OR, 

Thuringian forests ; and in the intervals muddily medi- 
tating, not on the wood or river, l>y which his young bar- 
barians were at play, but how soon it would be time to cut 
the present emperor's throat, and sack the city. 

While all this was going on, old Diogenes and his 
hearty sons were in their poor house in the Suburra, not far 
off, making preparations for their frugal meal. They were 
interrupted by a gentle tap at the door, followed by the 
lifting of the latch, and the entrance of two young men, 
whom Diogenes at once recognised and welcomed. 

" Come in, my noble young masters; how good of you 
thus to honour my poor dwelling ! I hardly dare offer you 
our plain fare ; but if you will partake of it, you will in- 
deed give us a Christian love-feast." 

" Thank you most kindly, father Diogenes,'' answered 
the elder of the two, Quadratus, Sebastian's sinewy cen- 
turion; "Pancratius and I have come expressly to sup with 
you. But not as yet ; we have some business in this part 
of the town, and after it, we shall be glad to eat something. 
In the meantime, one of your youths can go out and cater 
for us. Come, we must have something good ; and 1 want 
you to cheer yourself with a moderate cup of generous 
wine." 

Saying this he gave his purse to one of the sons, with 
instructions to bring home some better provisions than he 
knew the simple family usually enjoyed. They sat down ; 
and Pancratius, by way of saying something, addressed 
the old man. " Good Diogenes, I have heard Sebastian 
say that you remember seeing the glorious Deacon Lan- 
rentius die for Christ. Tell me something about him." 

" With pleasure," answered the old man. " It is now 
nearly forty-five years since it happened,* and as I was older 
then than you are now, you may suppose I remember all 
quite distinctly. He was indeed a beautiful youth to look 
at : so mild and sweet, so fair and graceful ; and his speech 
was so gentle, so soft, especially when speaking to the poor. 
How they all loved him ! I followed him every where ; I 
stood by, as the venerable Pontiff Sixtus was going to 
death, and Laurentius met him, and so tenderly reproached 

* A.D. 25S. 



CH. XIII.] THE CIIUIICH OF THE CATACOMBS. 205 

him, just as a son might a father, for not allowing 1 him to 
he his companion in the sacrifice of himself, as he had 
ministered to him in the sacrifice of our Lord's body and 
Hood." 

" Those were splendid times, Diogenes, were they 
not?" interrupted the youth; "how degenerate we are 
now ! What a different race ! Are we not, Quadratus ?" 

The rough soldier smiled at the generous sincerity of 
his complaint, and bid Diogenes g - o on. 

" I saw him too as he distributed the rich plate of the 
Church to the poor. We have never had any thing so 
splendid since. There were golden lamps and candlesticks, 
censors, chalices, and patens,*' besides an immense quantity 
of silver melted down, and distributed to the blind, the 
lame, and the indigent." 

" But tell me," asked Pancratius, " how did he endure 
his last dreadful torment ? It must have been frightful." 

" I saw it all," answered the old fossor, " and it would 
have been intolerably frightful in another. He had been 
first placed on the rack, and variously tormented, and he 
had not uttered a groan; when the judge ordered that 
horrid bed, or gridiron, to be prepared and heated. To 
look at his tender flesh blistering and breaking over the 
fire, and deeply scored with red burning gashes that cut to 
the bone where the iron bars went across ; to see the steam, 
thick as from a cauldron, rise from liis body, and hear the 
fire hiss beneath him, as he melted away into it; and every 
now and then to observe the tremulous quivering that crept 
over the surface of his skin, the living motion which the 
agony gave to each separate muscle, and the sharp spas- 
modic twitches which convulsed, and gradually contracted, 
his limbs ; all this, I own, was the most harrowing spectacle 
I have ever beheld in all my life. But to look into his 
countenance was to forget all this. His head was raised 
up from the burning body, and stretched out, as if fixed 
on the contemplation of some most celestial vision, like 
that of his fellow-deacon Stephen. His face glowed indeed 
with the heat below, and the perspiration flowed down it; 
but the light from the fire shining upwards, and passing 
* Prudentius, in his hymn on St. Laurence. 



130(5 

through his golden locks, created a glory round his beauti- 
ful head and countenance, which made him look as if al- 
ready in heaven. And every feature, serene and sweet as 
ever, was so impressed with an eager, longing look, accom- 
panying- the upward glancing of his eye, that you would 
willingly have changed places with him." 

"That I would," again broke in Pancratius, " and, as 
soon as God pleases ! I dare not think that I could stand 
what he did ; for he was indeed a noble and heroic Levite, 
what I am only a weak imperfect boy. But do you not 
think, dear Quadratus, that strength is given in that hour, 
proportionate to our trials, whatever they may be 1 You, 
I know, would stand any thing ; for you are a fine stout 
soldier, accustomed to toil and wounds. But as for me, 
I have only a willing heart to give. Is that enough, think 
you ?" 

" Quite, quite, my dear boy," exclaimed the centurion, 
full of emotion, and looking tenderly on the youth, who 
with glistening eyes, having risen from his seat, had placed 
his hands upon the officer's shoulders. " God will give 
you strength, as He has already given you courage. But 
we must not forget our night's work. Wrap yourself well 
up in your cloak, and bring your toga quite over your head; 
so ! It is a wet and bitter night. Now, good Diogenes, 
put more wood on the fire, and let us find supper ready on 
our return. We shall not be long absent ; and just leave 
the door ajar." 

" Go, go, my sons," said the old man, " and God speed 
you ! whatever you are about, I am sure it is something 
praiseworthy." 

Quadratus sturdily drew his chlamys, or military cloak, 
around him, and the two youths plunged into the dark 
lanes of the Suburra, and took the direction of the Forum. 
While they were absent, the door was opened, with the 
well-known salutation of "thanks to God;" and Sebastian 
entered, and inquired anxiously if Diogenes had seen any 
thing of the two young men; for he had got a hint of 
what they were going to do. He was told they were ex- 
pected in a few moments. 

A quarter of an hour had scarcely elapsed, when hasty 



CH. XIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 207 

steps were heard approaching ; the door was pushed open, 
and was as quickly shut, and then fast barred, behind Qua- 
dratic and Pancratius. 

" Here it is," said the latter, producing-, with a hearty 
laugh, a bundle of crumpled parchment. 

" What?" asked all eagerly. 

" Why the grand decree, of course," answered Pan- 
cratius, with boyish glee ; "look here, ' Domini jvostri 

DlOCLETIANUS ET MaXIMIANUS, INVICTI, SEXIORES 
AUGUSTI, PATRES IMPERATORUM ET CjESARUM,' * and 

so forth. Here it goes !" And he thrast it into the blaz- 
ing fire, while the stalwart sons of Diogenes threw a fag- 
got over it to keep it down, and drown its crackling 1 . 
There it frizzled, and writhed, and cracked, and shrunk, 
first one letter or word coming up, then another ; first an 
emperor's praise, and then an anti-Christian blasphemy; 
till all had subsided into a black ashy mass. 

And what else, or more, would those be in a few years 
who had issued that proud document, when their corpses 
should have been burnt on a pile of cedar-wood and spices, 
and their handful of ashes be scraped together, hardly 
enough to fill a gilded urn ? And what also, in very few 
years more, would that heathenism be, which it was issued 
to keep alive, but a dead letter at most, and as worthless 
a heap of extinguished embers as lay on that hearth? 
And the very empire which these " unconquered" Au- 
gusti were bolstering' up by cruelty and injustice, how in 
a few centuries would it resemble that annihilated decree ? 
the monuments of its grandeur lying' in ashes, or in ruins, 
and proclaiming that there is no true Lord but one stronger 
than Caesars, the Lord of lords ; and that neither counsel 
nor strength of man shall prevail against Him. 

Something like this did Sebastian think, perhaps, as he 
g'azed abstractedly on the expiring embers of the pompous 
and cruel edict which they had torn down, not for a wan- 
ton frolic, but because it contained blasphemies against 
God and His holiest truths. They knew that if they 
should be discovered, tenfold tortures would be their lot; 

* " Our lords Dioclesian and Maximian, the unconquered, elder 
Augusti, fathers of the Emperors and Caesars." 



208 

but Christians in those days, when they contemplated and 
prepared for martyrdom, made no calculation on that head. 
Death for Christ, whether quick and easy, or lingering 
and painful, was the end for which they looked ; and, like 
brave soldiers going' to battle, they did not speculate where 
a shaft or a sword might strike them, whether a death- 
blow would at once stun them out of existence, or they 
should have to writhe for hours upon the ground, muti- 
lated or pierced, to die by inches among the heaps of un- 
heeded slain. 

.. Sebastian soon recovered, and had hardly the heart to 
reprove the perpetrators of this deed. In truth, it had its 
ridiculous side, and he was inclined to laugh at the mor- 
row's dismay. This view he gladly took ; for he saw Pan- 
cratius watched his looks with some trepidation, and his 
centurion looked a little disconcerted. So, after a hearty 
laugh, they sat clown cheerfully to their meal ; for it was 
not midnight, and the hour for commencing- the fast, pre- 
paratory to receiving the holy Eucharist, was not arrived. 
Quadratic's object, besides kindness, in this arrangement, 
was partly, that if surprised, a reason for their being there 
might be apparent, partly to keep up the spirits of his 
younger companion and of Diogenes' s household, if alarmed 
at the bold deed just performed. But there was no ap- 
pearance of any such feeling. The conversation soon turned 
upon recollections of Diogenes's youth, and the good old 
fervent times, as Pancratius would persist in calling them. 
Sebastian saw his friend home, and then took a round, to 
avoid the Forum in seeking his own abode. If any one 
had seen Pancratius that night, when alone in his chamber 
preparing- to retire to rest, he would have seen him every 
now and then almost laughing- at some strange but plea- 
sant adventure. 



CH. XIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 209 



CHAPTEK XIV. 

THE DISCOVERY. 

At the first dawn of morning, Corvinus was up ; and, not- 
withstanding- the gloominess of the day, proceeded straight 
to the Forum. He found his outposts quite undisturbed, 
and hastened to the principal object of his care. It would 
be useless to attempt describing- his astonishment, his rage, 
his fury, when he saw the blank board, with only a few 
shreds of parchment left, round the nails ; and beside it 
standing-, in unconscious stolidity, his Dacian sentinel. 

He would have darted at his throat, like a tiger, if he 
had not seen, in the barbarian's twinkling eye, a sort of 
hyaena squint, which told him he had better not. But he 
broke out at once into a passionate exclamation : 

" Sirrah ! how has the edict disappeared I Tell me 
directly !" 

" Softly, softly, Herr Kornweiner," answered the im- 
perturbable Northern. "There it is as you left it in my 
charge." 

" Where, you fool ? Come and look at it." 

The Dacian went to his side, and for the first time 
confronted the board; and after looking- at it for some 
moments, exclaimed : " Well, is not that the board you 
hung up last night ?" 

"Yes, you blockhead, but there was writing on it, 
which is gone. That is what you had to guard." 

" Why, look you, captain, as to writing, you see I know 
nothing, having- never been a scholar ; but as it was rain- 
ing all night, it may have been washed out." 

" And as it was blowing, I suppose the parchment on 
which it was written was blown on ?" 

" No doubt, Herr Kornweiner : you are quite right." 

"Come, sir, this is no joking matter. Tell me, at 
once, who came here last night." 

" Why, two of them came." 

"Two of what?" 

" Two wizards, or goblins, or worse." 

l» 



210 fabiola; or, 

" None of that nonsense for me." The Dacian's eye 
flashed drunkenly again. " Well, tell me, Arminius, what 
sort of people they were, and what they did." 

" Why, one of them was but a stripling-, a boy, tall 
and thin ; who went round the pillar, and I suppose must 
have taken away what you miss, while I was busy with 
the other." 

" And what of him ? What was he like ?" 

The soldier opened his mouth and eyes, and stared at 
Corvinus for some moments, then said, with a sort of stupid 
solemnity, " What was he like ? Why, if he was not 
Thor himself, he wasn't far from it. I never felt such 
strength." 

" What did he do to show it?" 

" He came up first, and began to chat quite friendly; 
asked me if it was not very cold, and that sort of thing-. 
At last, I remembered that I had to run through any one 
that came near me " 

" Exactly," interrupted Corvinus ; " and why did you 
not doit?" 

" Only because he wouldn't let me. I told him to be 
off, or I should spear him, and drew back and stretched 
out my javelin ; when in the quietest manner, but I don't 
know how, he twisted it out of my hand, broke it over his 
knee, as if it had been a mountebank's wooden sword, and 
dashed the iron-headed piece fast into the ground, where 
you see it, fifty yards off." 

" Then why did you not rush on him with your sword, 
and despatch him at once ? But where is your sword ? 
it is not in your scabbard." 

The Dacian, with a stupid grin, pointed to the roof of 
the neighbouring basilica, and said : " There, don't you 
see it shining on the tiles, in the morning light ?" Cor- 
vinus looked, and there indeed he saw what appeared like 
such an object, but he could hardly believe his own eyes. 

" How did it get there, you stupid booby ?" he asked. 

The soldier twisted his moustache in an ominous way, 
which made Corvinus ask again more civilly, and then he 
was answered : 

" He, or it, whatever it was, without any apparent 



CH. XIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 211 

effort, by a sort of conjuring, whisked it out of my hand, 
and up where you see it, as easily as I could cast a quoit 
a dozen yards." 

"And then?" 

" And then, he and the hoy, who came from round the 
pillar, walked off in the dark." 

" What a strange story ! " muttered Corvinus to him- 
self; " yet there are proofs of the fellow's tale. It is not 
every one who could have performed that feat. But pray, 
sirrah, why did you not give the alarm, and rouse the 
other guards to pursuit?" 

" First, Master Kornweiner, because, in my country, 
we will fight any living men, but we do not choose to 
pursue hobgoblins. And secondly, what was the use ? I 
saw the board that you gave into my care all safe and 
sound." 

" Stupid barbarian !" growled Corvinus, hut well within 
his teeth ; then added : " This business will go hard with 
you ; you know it is a capital offence." 

" What is ?" 

" Why, to let a man come up and speak to you, with- 
out giving the watchword." 

" Gently, captain, who says he did not give it? I 
never said so." 

" But did he though ? Then it could be no Christian." 

" Oh yes, he came up, and said quite plainly, ' Nomen 
ImperatonimJ 1 "* 

" What ?" roared out Corvinus. 

" Nomen Imperatorum." 

" c Numen ImperatarwrH was the watchword," shrieked 
the enraged Roman. 

" Nomen or Numen, it's all the same, I suppose. A 
letter can't make any difference. You call me Arminius, 
and I call myself Hermann, and they mean the same. 
How should 1 know your nice points of language ?" 

Corvinus was enraged at himself; for he saw how 
much better he would have gained his ends, by putting a 
sharp, intelligent praetorian on duty, instead of a sottish, 

* The name of the Emperor. 



212 FABIOLA; OR, 

savage foreigner. " Well," lie said, in the worst of hu- 
mours, " you will have to answer to the emperor for all 
this ; and you know he is not accustomed to pass over 
offences." 

" Look you now, Herr Krummheiner," returned the 
soldier, with a look of sly stolidity ; " as to that, we are 
pretty well in the same boat." (Corvinus turned pale, for 
he knew this was true.) " And you must contrive some- 
thing to save me, if you want to save yourself. It was 
you the emperor made responsible, for the what-d'ye-call- 
it ?— that board." 

" You are right, my friend ; I must make it out that a 
strong body attacked you, and killed you at your post. 
So shut yourself up in quarters for a few days, and you 
shall have plenty of beer, till the thing blows over." 

The soldier went off, and concealed himself. A few 
days after, the dead body of a Dacian, evidently murdered, 
was washed on the banks of the Tiber. It was supposed 
he had fallen in some drunken row ; and no further trou- 
ble was taken about it. The fact was indeed so; but 
Corvinus could have given the best account of the trans- 
action. Before, however, leaving the ill-omened spot in 
the Forum, he had carefully examined the ground, for any 
trace of the daring act ; when he picked up, close under 
the place of the edict, a knife, which he was sure he had 
seen at school, in possession of one of his companions. He 
Treasured it up, as an implement of future vengeance, and 
hastened to provide another copy of the decree. 



CHAPTER XV. 

EXPLANATIONS. 



When morning had fairly broken, crowds streamed, from 
every side, into the Forum, curious to read the tremendous 
edict so long - menaced. But when tliey found only a bare 
board, there was a universal uproar. Some admired the 



CH. XV.] THE CIIUItCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 213 

spirit of the Christians, so generally reckoned cowardly ; 
others were indignant at the audacity of such an act ; 
some ridiculed the officials concerned in the proclamation ; 
others were angry that the expected sport of the day might 
be delayed. 

At an early hour the places of public fashionable resort 
were all occupied with the same theme. In the great Anto- 
nian Thermee a group of regular frequenters were talking- 
it over. There were Scaurus the lawyer, and Proculus, 
and Fulvius, and the philosopher Calpurnius, who seemed 
very busy with some musty volumes, and several others. 

" What a strange affair this is, about the edict !" said 
one. 

" Say rather, what a treasonable outrage against the 
divine emperors !" answered Fulvius. 

" How was it done ?" asked a third. 

" Have you not heard," said Proculus, " that the Da- 
cian guard stationed at the Puteal, was found dead, with 
twenty-seven poniard-wounds on him, nineteen of which 
would have sufficed each by itself to cause death ?" 

" No, that is quite a false report," interrupted Scaurus ; 
" it was not done by violence, but entirely by witchcraft. 
Two women came up to the soldier, who drove his lance at 
one, and it passed clean through her, and stuck in the 
ground on the other side, without making any wound in 
her. He then hacked at the other with his sword, but he 
might as well have struck at marble. She then threw a 
pinch of powder upon him, and he flew into the air, and was 
found, asleep a*d unhurt, this morning, on the roof of the 
.ZEmilian basilica. A friend of mine, who was out early, 
saw the ladder up, by which he had been brought down." 

" Wonderful !" many exclaimed. " What extraordi- 
nary people these Christians must be !" 

" I don't believe a word of it," observed Proculus. 
" There is no such power in magic ; and certainly I don't 
see why these wretched men should possess it more than 
their betters. Come, Calpurnius," he continued, " put by 
that old book, and answer these questions. I learnt more, 
one day after dinner, about these Christians from you, than 
I had heard in all my life before. What a wonderful 



214 



FABIOLA; OR, 



memory you must have, to remember so accurately the 
genealogy and history of that barbarous people ! Is what 
Scaurus has just told us possible, or not ?" 

Calpurnius delivered himself, with great pompousness, 
as follows : 

" There is no reason to suppose such a thing- im- 
possible ; for the power of magic has no bounds. To pre- 
pare a powder that would make a man fly in the air, it 
would be only necessary to find some herbs in which air 
predominates more than the other three elements. Such 
for instance are pulse, or lentils, according to Pythag*oras. 
These, being gathered when the sun is in Libra, the nature 
of which is to balance even heavy things in the air, at the 
moment of conjunction with Mercury, a wing-ed power as you 
know, and properly energised by certain mysterious words, 
by a skilful magician, then reduced to powder in a mortar 
made out of an aerolite, or stone that had flown up into the 
sky, and come down again, would no doubt, when rightly 
used, enable, or force, a person to fly up into the air. It is 
well known, indeed, that the Thessalian witches go at plea- 
sure through the clouds, from place to place, which must 
be done by means of some such charm. 

" Then, as to the Christians ; you will remember, ex- 
cellent Proculus, that in the account to which you have 
done me the honour to allude, which was at the deified 
Fabius's table, if I remember right, I mentioned that the 
sect came originally from Chaldfea, a country always 
famous for its occult arts. But we have a most important 
evidence bearing on this matter, recorded in history. It 
is quite certain, that here in Rome, a certain Simon, who 
was sometimes called Simon Peter, and at other times 
Simon Magus, actually in public flew up high into the 
air ; but his charm having slipped out of his belt, he fell 
and broke both his legs; for which reason he was obliged 
to be crucified with his head downwards." 

" Then are all Christians necessarily sorcerers ?" asked 
Scaurus. 

" Necessarily ; it is part of their superstition. They 
believe their priests to have most extraordinary power over 
nature. Thus, for example, they think they can bathe the 



CH. XV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 215 

bodies of people in water, and their souls acquire thereby 
wonderful gifts, and superiority, should they be slaves, 
over their masters, and the divine emperors themselves." 

" Dreadful !" all cried out. 

" Then, again," resumed Calpurnius, " we all know 
what a frightful crime some of them committed last night, 
in tearing down a supreme edict of the imperial deities ; 
and even suppose (which the gods avert) that they carried 
their treasons still further, and attempted their sacred lives, 
they believe that they have only to go to one of those 
priests, own the crime, and ask for pardon ; and, if he gives 
it, they consider themselves as perfectly guiltless." 

" Fearful !" joined in the chorus. 

" Such a doctrine," said Scaurus, " is incompatible 
with the safety of the state. A man who thinks he can 
be pardoned by another man of every crime, is capable of 
committing any." 

" And that, no doubt," observed Fulvius, "is the cause 
of this new and terrible edict against them. After what 
Calpurnius has told us about these desperate men, nothing 
can be too severe against them." 

Fulvius had been keenly eyeing Sebastian, who had 
entered during the conversation ; and now pointedly ad- 
dressed him. 

" And you, no doubt, think so too, Sebastian; do you 
not?" 

" I think," he calmly replied, " that if the Christians 
be such as Calpurnius describes them, infamous sorcerers, 
they deserve to be exterminated from the face of the 
earth. But even so, I would gladly give them one chance 
of escape." 

" And what is that?" sneeringly asked Fulvius. 

" That no one should be allowed to ioin in destrovino- 
them, who could not prove himself freer from crime than 
they. I would have no one raise his hand against them, 
who cannot show that he has never been an adulterer, an 
extortioner, a deceiver, a drunkard, a bad husband, father, 
or child, a profligate, or a thief. For with being- any of 
these, no one charges the poor Christians."* 

* See Lucian's address to the judge, upon Ptolemseus's coEdem- 



216 

Fulvius winced under the catalogue of vices, and still 
more under the indignant, but serene, glance of Sebas- 
tian. But at the word " thief," he fairly leapt. Had the 
soldier seen him pick up the scarf in Fabius's house ? Be 
it so or not, the dislike he had taken to Sebastian, at their 
first meeting, had ripened into hatred at tbeir second; and 
hatred in that heart was only written in blood. He had 
only intensity now to add to that feeling. 

Sebastian went out; and his thoughts o-ot vent in fanii- 
liar words of prayer. " How long, Lord ! how long ? 
What hopes can we entertain of the conversion of many 
to the truth, still less of the conversion of this great em- 
pire, so long as we find even honest and learned men be- 
lieving at once every calumny spoken against us; trea- 
suring up, from age to age, every fable and fiction about 
us; and refusing even to inquire into our doctrines, be- 
cause they have made up their minds that they are false 
and contemptible V 

He spoke aloud, believing himself alone, when a sweet 
-voice answered him at his side : " Good youth, whoever 
thou art that speakest thus, and methinks I know thy voice, 
remember that the Son of God gave light to the dark eye 
of the body, by spreading- thereon clay ; which, in man's 
hands, would have only blinded the seeing-. Let us be as 
dust beneath His feet, if we wish to become His means of 
enlightening the eyes of men's souls. Let us be trampled 
on a little longer in patience; perhaps even from our ashes 
may come out the spark to blaze." 

'" Thank you, thank you, Coecilia," said Sebastian, " for 
your just and kind rebuke. Whither tripping on so gaily 
on this first day of danger '?" 

" Do you not know that I have been named guide of 
the cemetery of Callistus ' I am going to take possession. 
Pray, that I may be the first flower of this coming spring." 

And she passed on, singing blithely. But Sebastian 
beaded her to stav one moment. 

nation, in the beginning of St. Justin's Second Apology, or in Eui- 
nart, vol. i. p. 120. 



Cn. XVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

THE WOLF IN THE FOLD. 

After the adventures of the night, our youths had not- 
much time for rest. Long- before daybreak, the Christians 
had to be up, and assemble at their several titles, so as to 
disperse before day. It was to be their last meeting- there. 
The oratories were to be closed, and divine worship had to 
begin, from that day, in the subterranean churches of the 
cemeteries. It could not, indeed, be expected, that all 
would be able to travel with safety, even on the Sunday, 
some miles beyond the gate.* A great privilege was, con- 
sequently, granted to the faithful, at such times of trouble, 
that of preserving the blessed Eucharist in then* houses, 
and communicating themselves privately in the morning, 
"before taking other food," as Tertullian expresses it.f 

The faithful felt, not as sheep going to the slaughter, 
not as criminals preparing for execution, but as soldiers 
arming for fight. Their weapons, their food, their strength, 
their coinage, were all to be found in their Lord's table. 
Even the lukewarm and the timid gathered fresh spirit 
from the bread of life. In churches, as yet may be 
seen in the cemeteries, were chairs placed for the peniten- 
tiaries, before whom the sinner knelt, and confessed his 
sins, and received absolution. In moments like this, the 
penitential code was relaxed, and the terms of public ex- 
piation shortened ; and the whole night had been occupied 
by the zealous clergy in preparing- their flocks for, to many, 
their last public communion on earth. 

We need not remind our readers, that the office then 
performed was essentially, and in many details, the same 
as they daily witness at the Catholic altar. Not only was 
it considered, as now, to be the Sacrifice of Our Lord's 
Body and Blood, not only were the oblation, the consecra- 

* There was one cemetery called ad sextum Philippi, which is 
supposed to have been situated six miles from Rome; but many 
were three miles from the heart of the city. 

t Ad Uxorem, lib. ii. c. 5. 



218 

tion, the communion alike, but many of the prayers were 
identical ; so that the Catholic hearing them recited, and 
still more the priest reciting them, in the same language as 
the Roman Church of the catacombs spoke, may feel him- 
self in active and living communion with the martyrs who 
celebrated, and the martyrs who assisted at, those sublime 
mysteries. 

On the occasion which we are describing, when the 
time came for giving the kiss of peace — a genuine embrace 
of brotherly love — sobs could be heard, and bursts of tears ; 
for it was to many a parting salutation. Many a youth 
clung to his father's neck, scarcely knowing whether that 
day might not sever them, till they waved their palm- 
branches together in heaven. And how would mothers 
press their daughters to their bosom, in the fervour of that 
new love, which fear of long separation enkindled ! Then 
came the communion, more solemn than usual, more devout, 
more hushed to stillness. " The Body of our Lord Jesus 
Christ," said the priest to each, as he offered him the sacred 
food. "Amen," replied the receiver, with thrilling- accents 
of faith and love. Then extending in his hand an ovarium, 
or white linen cloth, he received in it a provision of the 
bread of life, sufficient to last him till some future feast. 
This was most carefully and reverently folded, and laid in 
the bosom, wrapped up often in another and more precious 
covering, or even placed in a gold locket.* It was now 
that, for the first time, poor Syra reg'retted the loss of her 
rich embroidered scarf, which would long before have been 
given to the poor, had she not studiously reserved it for 
such an occasion, and such a use. Nor had her mistress 
been able to prevail upon her to accept any objects of value, 
without a stipulation that she might dispose of them as 
she liked, that was in charitable gifts. 

The various assemblies had broken up before the dis- 

* When the Vatican cemetery was explored, in 1571, there were 
found in tombs two small square golden boxes, with a ring at the 
top of the lid. These very ancient sacred vessels are considered by 
Bottari to have been used for carrying the Blessed Eucharist round 
the neck {Roma Subterranea, torn. i. fig. 11); and Peilicia confirms 
this by many arguments {Christiana Eccl. Politia, torn. iii. p. 20). 



CH. XVI.j THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 219 

covery of the violated edict. But they may rather he 
said to have adjourned to the cemeteries. The frequent 
meetings of Torquatus with his two heathen confederates 



i C) k ' 



im 



in the baths of Caracalla had been narrowly watched by 
the capsarius and his wife, as we have already remarked ; 
and Victoria had overheard the plot, to make an inroad 
into the cemetery of Callistus on the day after publication. 
The Christians, therefore, considered themselves safer the 
first day, and took advantage of the circumstance to inaugu- 
rate, by solemn offices, the churches of the catacombs, which, 
after some years' disuse, had been put into good repair and 
order by the fossores, had been in some places repainted, 
and furnished with all requisites for divine worship. 

But Corvinus, after getting over his first dismay, and 
having as speedily as possible another, though not so 
grand, a copy of the edict affixed, began better to see the 
dismal probabilities of serious consequences, from the wrath 
of his imperial master. The Dacian was right : lie would 
have to answer for the loss. He felt it necessary to do 
something that very day, which might wipe off the dis- 
grace he had incurred, before again meeting the emperor's 
look. He determined to anticipate the attack on the 
cemetery, intended for the following day. 

He repaired, therefore, while it was still early, to the 
baths, where Fulvius, ever jealously watchful over Tor- 
quatus, kept him in expectation of Corvinus' s coming' to 
hold council with them. The worthy trio concerted their 
plans. Corvinus, guided by the reluctant apostate, at the 
head of a chosen band of soldieus who were at his disposal, 
had to make an incursion into the cemetery of Callistus, 
and drive, or drag, thence the clergy and principal Chris- 
tians ; while Fulvius, remaining outside with another com- 
pany, would intercept them and cut off all retreat, securing 
the most important prizes, and especially the Pontiff and 
superior clergy, whom his visit to the ordination would 
enable him to recognise. This was his plan. "Let fools," 
he said to himself, " act the part of ferrets in the warren ; 
I will be the sportsman outside." 

In the meantime Victoria overheard sufficient to make 



oo 



~0 FABI0LA; or, 

her very busy dusting and cleaning-, in the retired room 
where they were consulting, without appearing to listen. 
She told all to Cucumio ; and he, after much'scratching 
of his head, hit upon a notable plan for conveying the dis- 
covered information to the proper quarter. 

Sebastian, after his early attendance on divine worship, 
unable, from his duties at the palace, to do more, had pro- 
ceeded, according to almost universal custom, to the baths, 
to invigorate his limbs by their healthy refreshment, and 
also to remove from himself the suspicion, which his aDsence 
on that morning might have excited. While he was thus 
engaged, the old capsararius, as he had had himself ratt- 
lingly called in his ante-posthumous inscription, wrote on 
a slip of parchment all that his wife had heard about the 
intention of an immediate assault, and of getting possession 
of the holy Pontiff's person. This he fastened with a pin 
or needle to the inside of Sebastian's tunic, of which he 
had charge, as he durst not speak to him in the presence 
of others. 

The officer, after his bath, went into the hall where the 
events of the morning - were being discussed, and where 
Fulvius was waiting, till Corvinus should tell him that all 
was ready. Upon going out, disgusted, he felt himself, 
as he walked, pricked by something on his chest : he ex- 
amined his garments, and found the paper. It was writ- 
ten in about as elegant a latinity as Cucumio's epitaph; 
but he made it out sufficiently to consider it necessary for 
him to turn his steps towards the Via Appia, instead of 
the Palatine, and convey the important information to the 
Christians assembled in the cemetery. 

Having, however, found a fleeter and surer messenger 
than himself, in the poor blind girl, who would not attract 
the same attention, he stopped her, gave her the note, 
after adding a few words to it, with the pen and ink which 
he carried, and bade her bear it, as speedily as possible, to 
its destination. But, in fact, he had hardly left the baths, 
when Fulvius received information that Corvinus and his 
troop were by that time hastening across the fields, so 
as to avoid suspicion, towards the appointed spot. He 



CH. XVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 221 

mounted his horse immediately, and went along the high- 
road; while the Christian soldier, in a by-way, was in- 
structing- his blind messenger. 

When we accompanied Diogenes and his party through 
the catacombs, we stopped short of the subterranean church, 
because Severus would not let it be betrayed to Torquatus. 
In this the Christian congregation was now assembled, under 
its chief pastor. It was constructed on the principle com- 
mon to all such excavations, for we can hardly call them 
edifices. 

The reader may imagine two of the cv.hlcv.la or cham- 
bers, which we have before described, placed one on each 
side of a gallery or passage, so that their doors, or rather 
wide entrances, are opposite one another. At the end of 
one will be found an arcosolium or altar-tomb : and the 
probable conjecture is, that in this division the men under 
charge of the ostiarii* and in the other the women, under 
the care of the deaconesses, were assembled. This division 
of the sexes at divine worship was a matter of jealous dis- 
cipline in the early Church. 

Often these subterranean churches were not devoid of 
architectural decoration. The walls, especially near the 
altar, were plastered and painted, and half columns, with 
their bases and capitals, not ungracefully cut out of the 
sandstone, divided the different parts or ornamented the 
entrances. In one instance, indeed in the chief basilica 
yet discovered in the cemetery of Callistus, there is a 
chamber without any altar, communicating with the church 
by means of a funnel-shaped opening - , piercing the earthen 
wall, here some twelve feet thick, and entering the cham- 
ber, which is at a lower level, at the height of five or six 
feet, in a slanting- direction ; so that all that was spoken in 
the church coidd be heard, yet nothing that was done there 
could be seen, by those assembled in the chamber. This is 
very naturally supposed to have been the place reserved 
for the class of public penitents called audientes or hearers, 
and for the catechumens, not yet initiated by baptism. 

The basilica, in which the Christians were assembled, 

* Door-keepers, — an office constituting a lesser order in the 
Church. 



222 



FABIOLA; OR, 



when Sebastian sent his message, was like the one dis- 
covered in the cemetery of St. Agnes. Each of the two 
divisions was double, that is, consisted of two large cham- 
bers, slightly separated by half- 
columns, in what we may call 
the women's church, and by flat 
pilasters in the men's, one of 
these surfaces having in it a 
small niche for an image or 
lamp. But the most remark- 
able feature of this basilica is 
a further prolongation of the 
structure, so as to give it a 
chancel or presbytery. This 
is about the size of half each 
other division, from which it 
is separated by two columns 
against the wall, as well as 
by its lesser height, after the 
manner of modem chancels. 
For while each portion of each 
division has first a lofty-arched 
tomb in its wall, and four or 
five tiers of graves above it, 
the elevation of the chancel is 
not much greater than that of 
those arcosolia or altar-tombs. 
At the end of the chancel, 
against the middle of the wall, 
is a chair with back and arms 
cut out of the solid stone, and 
from each side proceeds a stone 
Pl " 0, cI"et""7s" a"e C s h " thk bench, which thus occupies the 
a. choir, or chancei with episcopal chair end and two sides of the Chan- 
ts) and benches for the clergy (06/. l a i iii*i it 

B. Division for the men, beparated from eel. As the table 01 tile ai'Ched- 

tbe choir by two pillars, supporting an i i i ■ i i • ■ i • 

r- r nif A ..v . i. « j- tomb behind the chair is hig'her 

C. Corridor of the catacomb, affording en- o 
D.Sforfo? e th C e h w ^e D ,»ithatonib ta than the back ° f the ^TOIie, 
Each portion is snbdhided by projections &nd 3S thlS 1S immovable, it IS 

m the waii. clear that the divine mysteries 

coidd not have been celebrated upon it. A portable altar 




CH. XVI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 223 

must, therefore, have been placed before the throne, in an 
isolated position in the middle of the sanctuary : and this, 
tradition tells us, was the wooden altar of St. Peter. 

We have thus the exact arrangements to be found in 
the churches built after the peace, and yet to be seen in all 
the ancient basilicas in Rome — the episcopal chair in the 
centre of the apse, the presbytery or seat for the clergy on 
either hand, and the altar between the throne and the 
people. The early Christians thus anticipated underground, 
or rather gave the principles which directed, the forms of 
ecclesiastical architecture. 

It was in such a basilica, then, that we are to imagine 
the faithful assembled, when Corvinus and his satellites 
arrived at the entrance of the cemetery. This was the way 
which Torquatus knew, leading down by steps from a half- 
ruinous building, choked up with faggots. They found 
the coast clear, and immediately made their arrangements. 
Fulvius, with one body of ten or twelve men, lurked to 
guard the entrance, and seize all who attempted to come 
out or go in. Corvinus, with Torquatus and a smaller 
body of eight, prepared to descend. 

" I don't like this underground work," said an old, 
grey-bearded legionary. " I am a soldier, and not a rat- 
catcher. Bring me my man into the light of day, and I 
will fig-lit him hand to hand, and foot to foot ; but I have 
no love for being stifled or poisoned, like vermin m a 
drain." 

This speech found favour with the soldiers. One said, 
" There may be hundreds of these skulking' Christians 
down there, and we are little more than half a dozen." 

" This is not the sort of work we receive our pay for," 
added another. 

" It's their sorceries I care for," continued a third, "and 
not their valour." 

It required all the eloquence of Fulvius to screw up 
their resolution. He assured them there was nothing to 
fear ; that the cowardly Christians would run before them 
like hares, and that they would find more gold and silver 
in the church than a year's pay would give them. Thus 
encouraged, they went groping down to the bottom of the 



224 fabiola; or. 

stairs. They could distinguish lamps at intervals, stretch- 
ing 1 into the gloomy length before them. 

" Hush !" said one, " listen to that voice !" 

From far away its accents came, softened by distance; 
hut they were the notes of a fresh youthful voice, that 
quailed not with fear ; so clear, that the very words could 
he caught, as it intoned the following verses : 

" Dominus illuminatio mea, et salus mea ; quern ti- 
meho ? 

" Dominus protector vitse mese; a quo trepidabo?"* 

Then came a full chorus of voices, singing, like the 
sound of many waters : 

" Dum appropriant super me nocentes, ut edant caraes 
meas ; qui tribulant me, inimici mei, ipsi infirmati sunt ot 
ceciderunt."f 

A mixture of shame and anger seized on the assailants 
as they heard these words of calm confidence and defiance. 
The single voice again sang forth, but in apparently fainter 
accents : 

" Si consistant adversum me castra, non timebit cor 
meum."l 

" I thought I knew that voice," muttered Corvinus. "I 
ought to know it out of a thousand. It is that of my 
bane, the cause of all last night's curse and this day's 
trouble. It is that of Pancratius, who pulled clown the 
edict. On, on, my men; any reward for him, dead or 
alive !" 

" But, stop," said one, " let us light our torches." 

" Hark !" said a second, while they were engaged in 
this operation ; " what is that strange noise, as if of 
scratching and hammering at a distance ? I have heard 
it for some time." 

" And, look!" added a third; "the distant lights have 

* " The Lord is my light and my salvation: whom shall I fear? 
The Lord is the protector of my life: of whom shall I be afraid?" 

f " "While the wicked draw nigh me, to eat my flesh, my ene- 
mies that trouble me have themselves been weakened and have 
fallen." 



shall 



J " If armies in camp shall stand together against me, my heart 
11 net fear." — 1'x. xxvi. 



CH. XVI.] 

disappeared, and the music lias ceased. We are certainly 
discovered." 

" No danger," said Torquatus, putting- on a boldness 
which he did not feel. " That noise only comes from those 
old moles, Diogenes and his sons, busy preparing- graves 
for the Christians we shall seize." 

Torquatus had in vain advised the troop not to bring 
torches, but to provide themselves with such lamps as 
we see Diogenes represented carrying-, in his picture, or 
waxen tapers, which he had brought for himself; but the 
men swore they would not go down without plenty of light, 
and such means for it as could not be put out by a draught 
of wind, or a stroke on the arm. The effects were soon 
obvious. As they advanced, silently and cautiously, along- 
the low narrow gallery, the resinous torches crackled and 
hissed with a fierce glare, which heated and annoyed 
them ; while a volume of thick pitchy smoke from each 
rolled downwards on to the bearers from the roof, half 
stifled them, and made a dense atmosphere of cloud around 
themselves, which effectually dimmed their light. Torqua- 
tus kept at the head of the party, counting- every turning- 
right and left, as he had noted them ; though he found 
every mark which he had made carefully removed. He 
was staggered and baulked, when, after having counted 
little more than half the proper number, he found the road 
completely blocked up. 

The fact was, that keener eyes than he was aware of 
had been on the look-out. Severus had never relaxed his 
watchfulness, determined not to bo surprised. He was 
near the entrance to the cemetery below, when the soldiers 
reached it above ; and he ran forward at once to the place 
where the sand had been prepared for closing the road ; 
near which his brother and several other stout workmen 
were stationed, in case of danger. In "a moment, with 
that silence and rapidity to which they were trained, they 
set to work lustily, shovelling the sand across the narrow 
and low corridor from each side, while well-directed blows 
of the pick brought from the low roof behind, huge flakes 
of sandstone, which closed up the opening. Behind this 
barrier they stood, hardly suppressing a laugh as they 

Q 



226 FABIOLA; OR, 

heard their enemies through its loose separation. Their 
work it was which had been heard, and which had screened 
off the lights, and deadened the song. 

Torquatus's perplexity was not diminished by the volley 
of oaths and imprecations, and the threats of violence which 
were showered upon him, for a fool or a traitor. " Stay 
one moment, I entreat you," he said. " It is possible I 
have mistaken my reckoning. I know the right turn by 
a remarkable tomb a few yards within it ; I will just step 
into one or two of the last corridors, and see." 

With these words, he ran back to the next gallery on 
the left, advanced a few paces, and totally disappeared. 

Though his companions had followed him to the verv 
mouth of the gallery, they could not see how this hap"- 
pened. It appeared like witchcraft, in which they were 
quite ready to believe. His light and himself seemed to 
have vanished at once. " We will have no more of this 
work," they said ; " either Torquatus is a traitor, or he has 
been carried off" by magic." Worried, heated in the close 
atmosphere almost inflamed by their lights, begrimed, 
blinded, and choked by the pitchy smoke, crest-fallen and 
disheartened, they turned back ; and since their road led 
straight to the entrance, they flung away their blazing 
torches into the side galleries, one here and one there, as 
they passed by, to get rid of them. When they looked 
back, it seemed as if a triumphal illumination was kindling 
up the very atmosphere of the gloomy corridor. From 
the mouths of the various caverns came forth a fiery light 
which turned the dull sandstone into a bright crimson; 
while the volumes of smoke above, hung like amber clouds 
along the whole gallery. The sealed tombs, receiving the 
unusual reflection on their yellow tiles, or marble slabs, 
appeared covered with golden or silver plates, set in the red 
damask of the Walls. It looked like a homage paid to 
martyrdom, by the very furies of heathenism, on the first 
day of persecution. The torches which they had kindled 
to destroy, only served to shed brightness on monuments 
of that, virtue which had never failed to save the Church. 

But before these foiled hounds with drooping heads 
had reached the entrance, they recoiled before the sight 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 227 

of a singular apparition. At first they thought they had 
caught a glimpse of daylight; but they soon perceived it 
was the glimmering of a lamp. This was held steadily 
by an upright, immovable figure, which thus received its 
light upon itself. It was clothed in a dark dress, so as 
to resemble one of those bronze statues, which have the 
head and extremities of white marble, and startle one, when 
first seen ; so like are they to living forms. 

" Who can it be ? What is it ?" the men whispered 
to one another. 

" A sorceress," replied one. 

" The genius loci"* observed another. 

" A spirit," suggested a third. 

Still, as they approached stealthily towards it, it did 
not appear conscious of their presence : " there was no 
speculation in its eyes;" it remained unmoved and un- 
scared. At length, two got sufficiently near to seize the 
figure by its arms. 

" Who are you ?" asked Corvinus, in a rage. 

" A Christian," answered Csecilia, with her usual 
cheerful gentleness. 

" Bring her along," he commanded ; " some one at 
least shall pay for our disappointment." 



CHAPTER XVII. 

THE FIRST FLOWER. 

CiEciLiA, already forewarned, had approached the ceme- 
tery by a different, but neighbouring- entrance. No sooner 
had she descended than she snuffed the strong odour of 
the torches. " This is none of our incense, I know," she 
said to herself; " the enemy is already within." She 
hastened therefore to the place of assembly, and delivered 
Sebastian's note ; adding also wha,t she had observed. It 
warned them to disperse and seek the shelter of the inner 

* The guardian genius of the place. 



oo 



'16 

and lower galleries ; and begged of the Pontiff not to leave 
till he should send for him, as his person was particularly 
sought for. 

Pancratius urged the blind messenger to save herself 
too. " No," she replied, " my office is to watch the door, 
and guide the faithful safe." 

" But the enemy may seize you." 

"No matter," she answered laughing; "my beino- 
taken may save much worthier lives. Give me a lamp, 
Pancratius." 

" Why, you cannot see by it," observed he, smilin°\ 

" True ; but others can." 

" They may be your enemies." 

" Even so," she answered, " I do not wish to be 
taken in the dark. If my Bridegroom come to me in the 
night of this cemetery, must He not find me with my 
lamp trimmed?" 

Off she started, reached her post, and hearing no noise 
except that of quiet footsteps, she thought they were those 
of friends, and held up her lamp to guide them. 

W hen the party came forth, with their only captive, 
Fulvius was perfectly furious. It was worse than a total 
failure : it was ridiculous — a poor mouse come out of the 
bowels of the earth. He rallied Corvinus till the wretch 
winced and foamed ; then suddenly he asked, " And where 
is Torquatus ?" He heard the account of his sudden dis- 
appearance, told in as many ways as the Dacian giiard's 
adventure : but it annoyed him greatly. He had no doubt 
whatever, in his own mind, that he had been duped by his 
supposed victim, who had escaped into the unsearchable 
mazes of the cemetery. If so, this captive would know, 
and he determined to question her. He stood before her, 
therefore, put on his most searching' and awful look, and 
said to her sternly, " Look at me, woman, and tell me the 
truth." 

" I must tell you the truth without looking at you, 
sir," answered the poor girl, with her cheerfullest smile 
and softest voice ; " do you not see that I am blind ?" 

" Blind !" all exclaimed at once, as they crowded to 
look at her. But over the features of Fulvius there passed 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 229 

the slightest possible emotion, just as much as the wave 
that runs, pursued by a playful breeze, over the ripe 
meadow. A knowledge had Hashed into his mind, a clue 
had fallen into his band. 

" It will be ridiculous," he said, " for twenty soldiers 
to march through the city, guarding a blind girl. Re- 
turn to your quarters, and I will see you are well re- 
warded. You, Corvinus, take my horse, and go before to 
your father, and tell him all. I will follow in a carriage 
with the captive." 

" No treachery, Fulvius," he said, vexed and mortified. 
" Mind you bring her. The day must not pass without a 
sacrifice." 

" Do not fear," was the reply. 

Fulvius, indeed, Avas pondering whether, having lost one 
spy, he should not try to make another. But the placid 
gentleness of the poor beggar perplexed him more than 
the boisterous zeal of the gamester, and her sightless orbs 
defied him more than the restless roll of the toper's. Still, 
the first thought that had struck him he could yet pur- 
sue. When alone in a carriage with her, he assumed a 
soothing tone, and addressed her. He knew she had not 
overheard the last dialogue. 

" My poor girl," he said, " how long have you been 
blind r 

" All my life," she replied. 

" What is your history '{ Whence do you come i"' 

"I have no history. My parents were poor, and 
brought me to Rome when I was four years old, as they 
came to pray, in discharge of a vow made for my life in 
early sickness, to the blessed martyrs Chrysanthus and 
Daria. They left me in charge of a pious lame woman, 
at the door of the title of Fasciola, while they went to 
their devotions. It was on that memorable day, when 
many Christians were buried at their tomb, by earth and 
stones cast down upon them. My parents had the happi- 
ness to be of the number." 

" And how have you lived since V 

'■ God became my only Father then, and His Catholic 
Church my mother. The one feeds the birds of the air, 



230 

the other nurses the weaklings of the flock. I have never 
wanted for any thing 1 since." 

" But you can walk ahout the streets freely, and with- 
out fear, as well as if you saw." 

" How do you know that ?" 

" I have seen you. Do you remember very early one 
morning- in the autumn, leading- a poor lame man along 
the Vicus Patricius ?" 

She blushed and remained silent. Could he have seen 
her put into the poor old man's purse her own share of 
the alms t 

" You have owned yourself a Christian ?" he asked 
negligently. 

" Oh, yes ! how could I deny it ?" 

" Then that meeting was a Christian meeting ?" 

" Certainly • what else could it be ?" 

He wanted no more; his suspicions were verified. 
Ag-nes, about whom Torquatus had been able or willing; 
to tell him nothing, was certainly a Christian. His game 
was made. She must yield, or he would be avenged. 

After a pause, looking" at her stedfastly, he said, " Do 
you know whither you are g'oing ?" 

" Before the judge of earth, I suppose, who will send 
me to my Spouse in heaven." 

" And so calmly ?" he asked iu surprise ; for he could 
see no token from the soul to the countenance, but a smile. 

" So joyfully rather," was her brief reply. 

Having got all that he desired, he consigned Ins pri- 
soner to Corvinus at the gates of the .ZEmilian basilica, 
and left her to her fate. It had been a cold and drizzling 
day, like the preceding - evening. The weather, and the 
incident of the night, had kept down all enthusiasm ; and 
while the prefect had been compelled to sit in-doors, where 
no great crowd could collect, as hours had passed away 
without any arrest, trial, or tidings, most of the curious 
had left, and only a few more persevering remained, past 
the hour of afternoon recreation in the public gardens. 
But just before the captive arrived, a fresh knot of spec- 
tators came in, and stood near one of the side-doors, from 
which they could see all. 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 231 

As Corvinus had prepared his father for what he was to 
expect, Tertullus, moved with some compassion, and ima- 
gining' there could be little difficulty in overcoming- the 
obstinacy of a poor, ig-norant, blind beggar, requested the 
spectators to remain perfectly still, that he mig'ht try his 
persuasion on her, alone, as she would imagine, with him ; 
and he threatened heavy penalties on any one who should 
presume to break the silence. 

It was as he had calculated. Caecilia knew not that any 
one else was there, as the prefect thus kindly addressed her : 

" What is thy name, child V 

" Ccecilia." 

" It is a noble name ; hast thou it from thy family?" 

" No ; I am not noble ; except because my parents, 
though poor, died for Christ. As I am blind, those who 
took care of me called me Coeca,* and then, out of kind- 
ness, softened it into Caecilia." 

" But now, give up all this folly of the Christians, 
who have kept thee only poor and blind. Honour the de- 
crees of the divine emperors, and offer sacrifice to the gods j 
and thou shalt have riches, and fine clothes, and good 
fare ; and the best physicians shall try to restore thee thy 
sight." 

" You must have better motives to propose to me than 
these ; for the very things for which I most thank God 
and His Divine Son, are those which you would have me 
put away." 

" How dost thou mean ?" 

" I thank God that I am poor and meanly clad, and 
fare not daintily ; because by all these things I am the 
more like Jesus Christ, my only Spouse." 

" Foolish girl !" interrupted the judge, losing patience 
a little ; " hast thou learnt all these silly delusions al- 
ready ? at least thou canst not thank thy God, that He has 
made thee sightless." 

" For that, more than all the rest, I thank Him daily 
and hourly with all my heart." 

" How so ? dost thou think it a blessing never to 

* Blind. 



232 

have seen the face of a human being, or the sun, or the 
earth? What strange fancies are these ?" 

" They are not so, most noble sir. For in the midst 
of what you call darkness, I see a spot of what I must 
call light, it contrasts so strongly with all around. It is 
to me what the sun is to you, which I know to be local 
from the varying- direction of its rays. And this object 
looks upon me as with a countenance of intensest beauty, 
and smiles upon me ever. And I know it to be that of 
Him whom I love with undivided affection. I would not 
for the world have its splendour dimmed by a brighter 
sun, nor its wondrous loveliness confounded with the diver- 
sities of others' features, nor my gaze on it drawn aside by 
earthly visions. I love Him too much, not to wish to see 
Him always alone." 

" Come, come ! let me have no more of this silly 
prattle. Obey the emperors at once, or I must try what a 
little pain will do. That will soon tame thee." 

" Pain ?" she echoed innocently. 

" Yes, pain. Hast thou never felt it ? hast thou never 
been hurt by any one in thy life ?" 

" Oh, no ! Christians never hurt one another." 

The rack was standing-, as usual, before him ; and he 
made a sign to Catulus to place her upon it. The exe- 
cutioner pushed her back on it by her arms ; and as she 
made no resistance, she was easily laid extended on its 
wooden couch. The loops of the ever-ready ropes were 
in a moment passed round her ancles, and arms drawn 
over the head. The poor sightless girl saw not who did 
all this ; she knew not but it might be the same person who 
had been conversing with her. If there had been silence 
hitherto, men now held their very breath; while Ctecilia's 
lips moved in earnest prayer. 

" Once more, before proceeding further, I call on thee 
to sacrifice to the gods, and escape cruel torments," said 
the judge, with a sterner voice. 

" Neither torments nor death," firmly replied the vic- 
tim tied to the altar, " shall separate me from the love of 
Christ. I can offer up no sacrifice but to the one living 
God ; and its ready oblation is myself." 



CH. XVII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 233 

The prefect made a signal to the executioner, and he 
gave one rapid whirl to the two wheels of the rack, round 
the windlasses of which the ropes were wound ; and the 
limbs of the maiden were stretched with a sudden jerk, 
which, though not enough to wrench them from then* 
sockets, as a further turn would have done, sufficed to in- 
flict an excruciating-, or more truly, a racking pain, through 
all her frame. Far more grievous was this, from the pre- 
paration and the cause of it being unseen, and from that 
additional suffering which darkness inflicts. A quivering 
of her features, and a sudden paleness, alone gave evidence 
of her torture. 

"Ha ! ha !" the judge exclaimed, " thou feelest that? 
Come, let it suffice ; obey, and thou shalt be freed." 

She seemed to take no heed of his words, but gave 
vent to her feelings in prayer : " I thank Thee, Lord 
Jesus Christ, that Thou hast made me suffer pain the first 
time for Thy sake. I have loved Thee in peace ; I have 
loved Thee in comfort; I have loved Thee in joy, — and 
now in pain I love Thee still more. How much sweeter it 
is to be like Thee, stretched upon Thy Cross, even than 
resting upon the hard couch at the poor man's table !" 

"Thou triflest with me," exclaimed the judge, tho- 
roughly vexed, " and makest light of my lenity. We will 
try something stronger. Here, Catulus, apply a lighted 
torch to her sides."* 

A thrill of disg-ust and horror ran through the assem- 
bly, which could not help sympathising' with the poor blind 
creature. A niurnmr of suppressed indignation broke out 
from all sides of the hall. 

Ctecilia, for the first time, learnt that she was in the 
midst of a crowd. A crimson glow of modesty rushed 
into her brow, her face, and neck, just before white as 
marble. The angry judg'e checked the rising gush of 
feeling ; and all listened in silence, as she spoke again, 
with wanner earnestness than before : 

" my deai' Lord and Spouse ! I have been ever true 

* The rack was used for a double purpose; as a direct torment, 
and to keep the body distended for the application of other tortures. 
This of fire was one of the most common. 



234 fabiola; or, 

and faithful to Thee ! Let me suffer pain and torture for 
Thee ; but spare me confusion from human eyes. Let me 
come to Thee at once ; not covering- my face with my 
hands in shame, when I stand before Thee." 

Another muttering' of compassion was heard. 

" Catulus !" shouted the baffled judge in fury ; " do 
your duty, sirrah ! what are you about, fumbling- all day 
with that torch ?" 

The executioner advanced, and stretched forth his hand 
to her robe, to withdraw it for the torture ; but he drew 
back, and, turning- to the prefect, exclaimed in softened 
accents, 

" It is too late. She is dead !" 

"Dead !" cried out Tertullus; "dead with one turn of 
the wheel ? impossible !" 

Catulus gave the rack a turn backwards, and the body 
remained motionless. It was true ; she had passed from 
the rack to the throne, from the scowl of the judge's coun- 
tenance to her Spouse's welcoming- embrace. Had she 
breathed out her pure soul, as a sweet perfume, in the in- 
cense of her prayer ? or had her heart been unable to get 
back its blood, from the intensity of that first virginal 
blush ?* 

In the stillness of awe and wonder, a clear bold voice 
cried out, from the group near the door : " Impious tyrant, 
dost thou not see, that a poor blind Christian hath more 
power over life and death, than thou or thy cruel masters?" 

" What ! a third time in twenty-four hours wilt thou 
dare to cross my path ? This time thou shalt not escape." 

These were Corvinus's words, garnished with a furious 
imprecation, as he rushed from his father's side round the 
enclosure before the tribunal, towards the group. But as 
he ran blindly on, he struck ag - ainst an officer of herculean 
build, who, no doubt quite accidentally, was advancing- 
from it. He reeled, and the soldier caught hold of him, 
saying, 

" You are not hurt, I hope, Corvinus ?" 

* There are many instances in the lives of martyrs of their 
deaths being the fruit of prayer, as in St. Praxedes, St. Csecilia, St. 
Agatha, &e. 



CH. XVIII. ] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 235 

" No, no ; let me go, Quadratus, let me go." 

" Where are you running- to in such a hurry ? can I help 
you ?" asked his captor, still holding him last. 

" Let me loose, I say, or he will he gone." 

" Who will he gone ?" 

" Pancratius," answered Corvinus, " who just now in- 
suited my father." 

" Pancratius !" said Quadratus, looking round, and see- 
ing that he had got clear off; " I do not see him." And 
he let him go ; hut it was too late. The youth was safe at 
Diogenes's, in the Suhurra. 

While this scene was going- on, the prefect, mortified, 
ordered Catulus to see the body thrown into the Tiber. 
But another officer, muffled in his cloak, stepped aside and 
beckoned to Catulus, who understood the sign, and stretched 
out his hand to receive a purse held out to him. 

" Out of the Porta Capena, at Lucina's villa, an hour 
after sunset," said Sebastian. 

" It shall be delivered there safe," said the execu- 
tioner. 

" Of what do you think did that poor girl die ?" asked 
a spectator from his companion, as they went out. 

" Of fright, I fancy," he replied. 

" Of Christian modesty," interposed a stranger who 
passed them. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

RETRIBUTION. 

The prefect of the city went to give his report on the 
untoward events of the day, and do what was possible, to 
screen his worthless son. He found the emperor in the 
worst of moods. Had Corvinus come in his way early 
in the day, nobody could have answered for his head. 
And now the result of the inroad into the cemetery had 
revived his anger, when Tertullus entered into the au- 
dience-chamber. Sebastian contrived to be on guard. 

" Where is your booby of a son?" was the first salu- 
tation which the prefect received. 



236 FAB10LA; OR, 

" Humbly waiting your divinity's pleasure outside, 
and anxious to propitiate your godlike anger, for the tricks 
which fortune has played upon his zeal." 

" Fortune !" exclaimed the tyrant ; " fortune indeed ! 
His own stupidity and cowardice : a pretty beginning, for- 
sooth; but he shall smart for it. Bring- him in." 

The wretch, whining- and trembling-, was introduced ; 
and cast himself at the emperor's feet, from which he was 
spurned, and sent rolling, like a lashed hound, into the 
midst of the hall. This set the imperial divinity a-laugh- 
ing, and helped to mollify its wrath. 

" Come, sirrah ! stand up," he said, " and let me 
hear an account of yourself. How did the edict disap- 
pear V 

Corvinus told a rambling tale, which occasionally 
amused the emperor ; for he was rather taken with the 
trick. This was a good symptom. 

" Well," he said at last, " I will be -merciful to you. 
Lictors, bind your fasces. They drew their axes forth, 
and felt their edges. Corvinus again threw himself down, 
and exclaimed, 

" Spare my life ; I have important information to fur- 
nish, if I live." 

IC Who wants your worthless life ?" responded the 
g-entle Maximian. " Lictors, put aside your axes ; the 
rods are good enough for him." 

In a moment his hands were seized and bound, his 
tunic was stripped off his shoulders, and a shower of blows 
fell upon them, delivered with well-reg-ulated skill; till he 
roared and writhed, to the great enjoyment of his imperial 
master. 

Smarting- and humbled, he had to stand again before 
him. 

" Now, sir," said the latter, " what is the wonderful 
information you have to give ?" 

" That I know who perpetrated the outrage of last 
night, on your imperial edict." 

"Who was it?" 

" A youth named Pancratius, whose knife I found 
under where the edict had been cut away." 



C1I. XVIII.J THE CHURCH OP THE CATACOMBS. 237 

11 And why have you not seized him and brought him 
to justice ?" 

" Twice this day he has been almost within my grasp, 
for I have heard his voice ; but he has escaped me." 

" Then let him not escape a third time, or you may 
have to take his place. But how do you know him, or his 
knife?" 

" He was my schoolfellow at the school of Cassianus, 
who turned out to be a Christian." 

" A Christian presume to teach my subjects, to make 
them enemies of their country, disloyal to their sovereigns, 
and contemners of the gods ! I suppose it was he who 
taught that young - viper Pancratius to pull down our im- 
perial edict. Do yoii know where he is V 

" Yes, sire ; Torquatus, who has abandoned the Chris- 
tian superstition, has told me." 

" And pray who is this Torquatus ?" 

" He is one who has been staying some time with 
Chromatius and a party of Christians in the country." 

" Why, this is worse and worse. Is the ex-prefect 
then, too, become a Christian ?" 

" Yes, and lives with many others of that sect in Cam- 
pania." 

" What perfidy ! what treachery ! I shall not know 
whom to trust next. Prefect, send some one immediately 
to arrest all these men, and the schoolmaster, and Tor- 
quatus." 

" He is no longer a Christian," interposed the judge. 

" Well, what do I care ?" replied the emperor pee- 
vishly ; " arrest as many as you can, and spare no one, 
and make them smart well ; do you understand me ? JNow 
begone, all ; it is time for my supper." 

Corvinus went home ; and, in spite of medicinal applica- 
tions, was feverish, sore, and spiteful all night ; and next 
morning begged his father to let him go on the expedition 
into Campania, that so he might retrieve his honour, gra- 
tify his revenge, and escape the disgrace and sarcasm that 
was sure to be heaped on him by Roman society. 

When Fulvius had deposited his prisoner at the tri- 
bunal, he hastened home to recount his adventures, as 



238 

usual, to Eurotas. The old man listened with imperturb- 
able sternness to the barren recital, and at last said, coldly, 

" Very little profit from all this, Fulvius." 

" No immediate profit, indeed ; but a good prospect in 
view, at least." 

" How so V 

" Why, the Lady Agnes is in my power. I have 
made sure, at last, that she is a Christian. I can now 
necessarily either win her, or destroy her. In either case 
her property is mine." 

" Take the second alternative," said the old man, with 
a keen glow in his eye, but no change of face ; " it is the 
shorter, and less troublesome, way." 

" But my honour is engaged ; I cannot allow myself 
to be spurned in the manner I told you." 

" You Juice been spurned, however; and that calls for 
vengeance. You have no time to lose, remember, in foolery. 
Your funds are nearly exhausted, and nothing is coming in. 
You must strike a blow." 

" Surely, Eurotas, you would prefer my trying to get 
this wealth by honourable," (Eurotas smiled at the idea 
coming into either of their minds) " rather than by foul, 
means." 

" Get it, get it any way, provided it be the surest and 
the speediest. You know our compact. Either the family 
is restored to wealth and splendour, or it ends in and with 
you. It shall never linger on in disgrace, that is, in 
poverty." 

" I know, I know, without your every day reminding 
me of the bitter condition," said Fulvius, wringing his 
hands, and writhing in all his body. " Give me time 
enough, and all will be well." 

" I aive you time, till all is hopeless. Things do not 
look bright at present. But, Fulvius, it is time that I 
tell you who I am." 

" Why, were you not my father's faithful dependant, 
to whose care he intrusted me ?" 

" I was your father's elder brother, Fulvius, and am 
the head of the family. I have had but one thought, but 
one aim in life, the restoring of our house to that great- 



CH. XVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 239 

ness and splendour, from which my father's negligence and 
prodigality had brought it down. Thinking that your father, 
my brother, had greater ability than myself for this work, 
I resigned my rights and gains to him upon certain terms; 
one of which was your guardianship, and the exclusive 
forming of your mind. You know how I have trained 
you, to care nothing about the means, so that our great 
ends be carried." 

Fulvius, who had been riveted with amazement and 
deep attention on the speaker, shrunk into himself with 
shame, at this baring of both their hearts. The dark old 
man fixed his eyes more intently than ever, and went on. 

" You remember the black and complicated crime by 
which we concentrated in your hands the divided remnant 
of family wealth." 

Fulvius covered his face with his hands and shuddered, 
then said entreatingly, " Oh, spare me that, Eurotas ; for 
heaven's sake spare me !" 

" Well, then," resumed the other, unmoved as ever, 
" I will be brief. Remember, nephew, that he who does 
not recoil from a brilliant future, to be gained by guilt, 
must not shrink from a past that prepared it by crime. 
For the future will one day be the past. Let our compact, 
therefore, be straightforward and honest ; for there is an 
honesty even in sin. Nature has given you abundance of 
selfishness and cunning, and she has given me boldness and 
remorselessness in directing and applying them. Our lot 
is cast by the same throw, — we become rich, or die, toge- 
ther." 

Fulvius, in his heart, cursed the day that he came to 
Rome, or bound himself to his stern master, whose mys- 
terious tie was so much stronger than he had known before. 
But he felt himself spell-bound to him, and powerless as 
the kid in the lion's paws. He retired to his couch with a 
heavier heart than ever ; for a dark, impending fate never 
failed to weigh upon his soul, every returning night. 

The reader will perhaps be curious to know, what has 
become of the third member of our worthy trio, the apos- 
tate Torquatus. When, confused and bewildered, he ran 
to look for the tomb which was to guide him, it so hap- 



240 fabiola; or, 

pened, that, just within the gallery which lie entered, was a 
neglected staircase, cut in the sandstone, down to a lower 
story of the cemetery. The steps had heen worn round 
and smooth, and the descent was precipitous. Torquatus, 
carrying - Ids light before him, and running- heedlessly, fell 
headlong down the opening - , and remained stunned and in- 
sensible at the bottom, till long - after his companions had 
retired. He then revived ; and for some time was so con- 
fused that he knew not where he was. He arose and 
groped about, till, consciousness completely returning, he 
remembered that he was in a catacomb, but could not make 
out how he was alone, and in the dark. It then struck 
him, that he had a supply of tapers about him, and means 
of lighting them. He employed these, and was cheered by 
finding himself again in light. But he had wandered from 
the staircase, of which, indeed, he recollected nothing, and 
went on, and on, entangling himself more inextricably in 
the subterranean labyrinth. 

He felt sure that, before he had exhausted his strength 
or his tapers, he should come to some outlet. But by de- 
grees he began to feel serious alarm. One after the other 
his lights were burnt out, and his vigour began to fail, for he 
had been fasting from early morning; and he found himself 
coming back to the same spot, after he had wandered about 
apparently for hours. At first he had looked negligently 
around him, and had carelessly read the inscriptions on 
the tombs. But as he grew fainter, and his hope of relief 
weaker, these solemn monuments of death began to speak to 
his soul, in a language that it could not refuse to hear, noi 
pretend to misunderstand. " Deposited in peace," was 
the inmate of one; "resting in Christ" was another; and 
even the thousand nameless ones around them reposed in 
silent calm, each with the seal of the Church's motherly 
care stamped upon his place of rest. And within, the em- 
calmed remains awaited the sound of angelic trumpet-notes, 
to awaken them to a happy resurrection. And he, in a 
few more hours, would bo dead like them ; he was light- 
ing his last taper, and had sunk down upon a heap of 
mould ; but would he be laid in peace, by pious hands, as 
they ? On the cold ground, alone, he should die, unpitied, 



CM. XVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 241 

unrnourned, unknown. There he should rot, and drop to 
pieces; and if, in after years, his bones, cast out from 
Christian sepulture, should be found, tradition might con- 
jecture that they were the accursed remains of an apostate 
lost in the cemetery. And even they might be cast out, 
as ho was, from the communion of that hallowed ground. 

It was coming' on fast; he could feel it; his head 
reeled, his heart fluttered. The taper was getting- too 
short for his fing-ers, and he placed it on a stone beside 
him. It might burn three minutes longer; but a drop 
filtering through the ceiling, fell upon it, and extin- 
guished it. So covetous did he feel of those three minutes 
more of lig'ht, so jealous was he of that little taper-end, as 
his last link with earth's joys, so anxious was he to have 
one more look at things without, lest he should be forced to 
look at those within, that ho drew forth his flint and steel, 
and laboured for a quarter of an hour to get a light from 
tinder, damped by the cold perspiration on his body. And 
when he had lighted his remnant of candle, instead of pro- 
fiting by its flame to look around him, he fixed his eves 
upon it with an idiotic stare, watching it burn down, as 
though it were the charm which bound his life, and this 
must expire with it. And soon the last spark gleamed 
smouldering like a glow-worm, on the red earth, and died. 

Was he dead too 1 he thought. Why not ? Darkness, 
complete and perpetual, had come upon him. He was cut 
off for ever from consort with the living, his mouth would 
no more taste food, his ears never again hear a sound, his 
eyes behold no light, or thing, again. He was associated 
with the dead, only his grave was much larger than theirs ; 
but. for all that, it was as dark and lonely, and closed for 
ever. What else is death ? 

No, it could not be death as yet. Death had to be 
followed by something - else. But even this was coming'. 
The worm was beginning to gnaw his conscience, and it 
grew apace to a viper's length, and twisted itself round his 
heart. He tried to think of pleasant things, and they 
came before him ; the quiet hours in the villa with Chro- 
matins and Polycarp, their kind words, and last embrace. 
But from the beautiful vision darted a withering flash ; he 

R 



242 FABIOLA ; OR, 

had betrayed them; he had told of them; to whom? To 
Fulvius and Corvinus. The fatal chord was touched, like 
the tingling nerve of a tooth, that darts its agony straight 
to the centre of the brain. The drunken debauch, the 
dishonest play, the base hypocrisy, the vile treachery, the 
insincere apostasy, the remorseful sacrileges of the last 
days, and the murderous attempt of that morning, now 
came dancing, like demons hand in hand, in the dark be- 
fore him, shouting, laughing, jibing, weeping, moaning, 
gnashing their teeth; and sparks of fire flying before his 
eyes, from his enfeebled brain, seemed to dart from glaring 
torches in their hands. He sunk down and covered his 
eyes. 

" I may be dead, after all," he said to himself; " for 
the infernal pit can have nothing worse than this." 

His heart was too weak for rage ; it sunk within him 
in the impotence of despair. His strength was ebbing 
fast, when he fancied he heard a distant sound. He put 
away the thought; but the wave of a remote harmony 
beat again upon his ear. He raised himself up ; it was 
becoming distinct. So sweet it sounded, so like a chorus 
of angelic voices, but in another sphere, that he said to 
himself, " Who would have thought that Heaven was so 
near to hell ! Or are they accompanying the fearful Judge 
to try me ?" 

And now a faint glimmer of light appeared at the same 
distance as the sounds ; and the words of the strain were 
clearly heard : 

" In pace, in idipsum, dormiam et requiescam."* 

" Those words are not for me. They might do at a mar- 
tyr's entombment; they cannot at a reprobate's burial." 

The light increased ; it was like a dawn glowing into 
day ; it entered the gallery and passed across it, bearing in 
it, as in a mirror, a vision too distinct to be unreal. First, 
there came virgins robed and holding lamps ; then four who 
carried between them a form wrapped up in a white linen 
cloth, with a crown of thorns upon the head ; after tbem 

* " In peace, in the selfsame, I will sleep and I will rest." Ps. 
iv. 9. 



CH. XVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 243 

the youthful acolyte Tarcisius bearing a censer steaming' 
with perfumed smoke ; and, after others of the clergy, the 
venerable Pontiff himself, attended by Reparatus, and an- 
other deacon. Diogenes and his sons, with sorrowful coun- 
tenances, and many others, among whom he could distin- 
guish Sebastian, closed the procession. As many bore 
lamps or tapers, the figures seemed to move in an un- 
changing atmosphere of mildest lig'ht. 

And as they passed before him, they chanted the next 
verse of the psalm : 

" Quoniam Tu Domine singulariter in spe constituisti 
me."* 

" TJiat," he exclaimed, rousing himself up, " that is 
for me." 

With 1!nis thought he had sprung upon his knees ; and 
by an instinct of grace, words which he had before heard 
came back to him like an echo ; words suited to the mo- 
ment ; words which he felt that he must speak. He crept 
forward, faint and feeble, turned along the gallery through 
which the funeral procession was passing-, and followed 
it, unobserved, at a distance. It entered a chamber and 
lighted it up, so that a picture of the Good Shepherd 
looked brightly down on him. But he would not pass 
the threshold, where he stood striking- his breast and pray- 
ing for mercy. 

The body had been laid upon the ground ; and other 
psalms and hymns were sung, and prayers recited, all in 
that cheerful tone and joyous mood of hopefulness, with 
which the Church has always treated of death. At length 
it was placed in the tomb prepared for it, under an arch. 
While this was being done, Torquatus drew nigh to one of 
the spectators, and whispered to him the question, 

" Whose funeral is this ?" 

" It is the deposition,'" he answered, " of the blessed 
Caecilia, a blind -virgin, who this morning fell into the 
hands of the soldiers, in this cemetery, and whose soul 
God took to Himself." 

" Then I am her murderer," he exclaimed, with a hol- 
low moan ; and staggering forward to the holy bishop's 

* " For Thou, Lord, singularly hast placed me in hope." Ps. 
v. 10. 



244 

feet, fell prostrate before him. It was some time before 
his feelings could find vent in words ; when these came, 
they were the ones he had resolved to utter : 

" Father, I have sinned before heaven, and against 
Thee, and I am not worthy to be called Thy child." 

The Pontiff raised him up kindly, and pressed him to 
his bosom, saying - , " Welcome back, my son, whoever thou 
art, to thy Father's house. But thou art weak and faint, 
and needest rest." 

Some refreshment was immediately procured. But Tor- 
quatus would not rest till he had publicly avowed the whole 
of his guilt, including the day's crimes ; for it was still the 
evening of the same day. All rejoiced at the prodigal's 
return, at the lost sheep's recovery. Ag'nes looked up to 
heaven from her last affectionate glance on the blind vir- 
gin's shroud, and thought that she could almost see her 
seated at the feet of her Spouse, smiling, with her eyes 
wide open, as she cast down a handful of flowers on the 
head of the penitent, the first-fruits of her intercession in 
heaven. 

Diogenes and his sons took charg'e of him. An humble 
lodging was procured for him, m a Christian cottage near, 
that he might not be within the reach of temptation, or of 
vengeance, and he was enrolled in the class of penitents j 
where years of expiation, shortened by the intercession of 
confessors — that is, future martyrs — would prepare him for 
full re-admission to the privileges he had forfeited.* 



CHAPTER XIX. 

TWOFOLD REVENGE. 

Sebastian's visit to the cemetery had been not merely to 
take thither for sepulture the relics of the first martyr, but 

* The penitentiary system of the early Church will be better 
described in any volume that embodies the antiquity of the second 
period of ecclesiastical history, that of The Church of the Basilicas. 
It is well known, especialty from the writings of St. Cyprian, that 
those who proved weak in persecution, and were subjected to public 
penance, obtained a shortening of its term, — that is, an indulgence, — 
through the intercession of confessors, or of persons imprisoned for 
the faith. 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 245 

also to consult with Marcellinus about his safety. His 
life was too valuable to the Church to be sacrificed so 
early; and Sebastian knew how eagerly it was sought. 
Torquatus now confirmed this, by communicating' Fulvius's 
designs, and the motive of his attendance at the December 
ordination. The usual papal residence was no longer safe ; 
and a bold idea had been adopted by the courageous sol- 
dier, — the " Protector of the Christians," as his acts tell 
us he had been authoritatively called. It was to lodge 
the Pontiff where no one could suspect him to be, and 
where no search would be dreamt of, in the very palace 
of the Caesars.* Efficiently disguised, the holy Bishop 
left the cemetery, and, escorted by Sebastian and Quad- 
ratus, was safely housed in the apartments of Irene, a 
Christian lady of rank, who lived in a remote part of the 
Palatine, in which her husband held a household office. 

Early next morning Sebastian was with Pancratius. 
" My dear boy," he said, " you must leave Rome in- 
stantly, and go into Campania. I have horses ready for 
you and Quadratus ; and there is no time to be lost." 

" And why, Sebastian ?" replied the youth, with sor- 
rowful face and tearful eye. " Have I done something 
wrong, or are you doubtful of my fortitude ?" 

" Neither, I assure you. But you have promised to be 
guided by me in all things ; and I never considered your 
obedience more necessary than now." 

" Tell me why, good Sebastian, I pray." 

" It must be a secret as yet." 

" What, another secret ?" 

" Call it the same, to be revealed at the same time. 
But I can tell you what I want you to do, and that I 
think will satisfy you. Corvinus has got orders to seize 
on Chromatius and all his community, yet young in the 
faith, as the wretched example of Torquatus has shown 
us ; and, what is worse, to put your old master Cassianus 
at Fundi to a cruel death. I want you to hasten before 
his messenger (perhaps he may go himself), and put them 
on their guard." 

Pancratius looked up brightly again ; he saw that Se- 
* This is related in the Acts just referred to. 



2±Q 

bastian trusted him. " Your wish is enough reason for 
me," said he, smiling 1 ; " but I would go to the world's 
end, to save my good Cassianus, or any other fellow- 
Christians." 

He was soon ready, took an affectionate leave of his 
mother ; and before Rome had fully shaken off sleep, he 
and Quadratus, each with well-furnished saddle-bags on 
their powerful steeds, were trotting across the campagna. 
of Rome, to reach the less-frequented, and safer, track of 
the Latin way. 

Corvinus having resolved to keep the hostile expedi- 
tion in his own hands, as honourable, lucrative, and plea- 
sant, it was delayed a couple of days, both that he might 
feel more comfortable about his shoulders, and that he 
might make proper preparations. He had a chariot hired, 
and engaged a body of Numidian runners, who could keep 
up with a carriage at full speed. But he was thus two 
days behind our Christians, though he, of course, travelled 
by the shorter and. more beaten Appian road. 

When Pancratius arrived at the Villa of Statues, he 
found the little community already excited, by the rumours 
which had reached it, of the edict's publication. He was 
welcomed most warmly by all; and Sebastian's letter of 
advice was received with deep respect. Prayer and de- 
liberation succeeded its perusal, and various resolutions 
were taken. Marcus and Marcellianus, with their father 
Tranquillinus, had already gone to Rome for the ordination. 
Nicostratus, Zoe, and others followed them now. Chroma- 
tins, who was not destined for the crown of martyrdom, 
though commemorated, by the Church, with his son, on the 
11 tli of August, found shelter for a time in Fabiola's villa, 
for which letters had been procured from its mistress, with- 
out her knowing the reason why ; for he wished to remain 
in the neighbourhood a little while longer. In fine, the 
villa ad Statu as was left in charge of a few faithful ser- 
vants, fully to be depended upon. 

When the two messengers had given themselves and 
their horses a good rest, they travelled, by the same road 
as Torquatus had lately trodden, to Fundi, where they put 
up at an obscure inn out of the town, on the Roman road. 



CH. XIX.j THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS., 247 

Pancratius soon found out his old master, who embraced 
him most affectionately. He told him his errand, and 
entreated him to fly, or at least conceal himself. 

"No," said the good man, "it must not be. I am 
already old, and I am weary of my unprofitable profession. 
I and my servant are the only two Christians in the town. 
The best families have, indeed, sent their children to my 
school, because they knew it would be kept as moral as 
paganism will permit ; but I have not a friend among my 
scholars, by reason of this very strictness. And they want 
even the natural refinement of Roman heathens. They 
are rude provincials ; and I believe there are some among 
the elder ones who would not scruple to take my life, if 
they could do so with impunity." 

"What a wretched existence indeed, Cassianus, you 
must be leading ! Have you made no impression on them?" 

" Little or none, dear Pancratius. And how can I, 
while I am obliged to make them read those dangerous 
books, full of fables, which Roman and Greek literature 
contain? No, I have done little by my words ; perhaps 
my death may do more for them." 

Pancratius found all expostulation vain, and would 
have almost joined him in his resolution to die ; only he 
had promised Sebastian not to expose his life during the 
journey. He however determined to remain about the 
town till he saw the end. 

Corvinus arrived with his men at the villa of Chroma- 
tins ; and early in the morning, rushed suddenly through 
the gates, and to the house. He found it empty. He 
searched it through and through, but discovered neither 
a person, a book, nor a symbol of Christianity. He was 
confounded aud annoyed. He looked about ; and having 
found a servant working in the garden, asked him where 
his master was. 

, " Master no tell slave where he go," was the reply, in 
a latinity corresponding to such a rude phraseology. 

" You are trifling with me. Which way did he and 
his companions go?" 

" Through yonder gate." 

" And then*?" 



248 fabiola; ob, 

" Look that way," answered the servant. " You see 
g'ate ? very well ; you see no more. Me work here, me see 
gate, me see no more." 

" When did they go ? at least you can answer that." 

" After the two come from Rome." 

" What two ? Always two, it seems." 

" One good youth, very handsome, sing so sweet. The 
other very big - , very strong, oh, very. See that young tree 
pulled up by the roots 1 He do that as easy as me pull 
my spade out of the ground." 

" The very two," exclaimed Corvinus, thoi'oughly en- 
raged. " Again that dastardly boy has marred my plans 
and destroyed my hopes. He shall suffer well for it." 

As soon as he was a little rested, he resumed his jour- 
ney, and determined to vent all his fury on his old master; 
unless, indeed, he whom he considered his evil genius should 
have been there before him. He was engaged during his 
journey, in plotting vengeance upon master and fellow-stu- 
dent ; and he was delighted to find, that one at least was at 
Fundi, when he arrived. He showed the governor his order 
. for the arrest and punishment of Cassianus, as a most dan- 
gerous Christian; but that officer, a humane man, remarked 
that the commission superseded ordinary jurisdiction in the 
matter, and gave Corvinus full power to act. He offered 
him the assistance of an executioner, and other requisites ; 
but they were declined. Corvinus had brought an abund- 
ant supply of strength and cruelty, in his own body-guard. 
He took, however, a public officer with him. 

He proceeded to the school-house when filled with 
scholars ; shut the doors, and reproached Cassianus, who 
advanced with open hand and countenance to greet him, 
as a conspirator against the state and a perfidious Chris- 
tian. A shout arose from the boyish mob; and by its tone, 
and by the look which he cast around, Corvinus learnt 
there were many present like himself — young bears' cubs, 
with full-grown hyoenas' hearts within them. 

" Boys !" he shouted out, " do you love your master, 
Cassianus ? He was once mine too, and I owe him many 
a grudge." 

A yell of execration broke out from the benches. 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 249 

" Then I have good news for you ; here is permission 
from the divine Emperor Maximian, for you to do what 
you like to him." 

A shower of books, writing-tablets, and other school 
missiles, was directed against the master, who stood un- 
moved, with his arms folded, before his persecutor. Then 
came a rush from all sides, with menacing attitudes of a 
brutal onslaught. 

" Stop, stop," cried out Corvinus, " Ave must go more 
systematically to work than this." 

He had reverted in thought to the recollection of his 
own sweet school-boy days; that time which most look 
back on from hearts teeming with softer feelings, than the 
contemplation of present things can suggest. He in- 
dulged in the reminiscence of that early season in which 
others find but the picture of unselfish, joyous, happy hours ; 
and he sought in the recollection what would most have 
gratified him then, that he might bestow it as a boon on 
the hopeful youths around him. But he could think of 
nothing that would have been such a treat to him, as to 
pay back to his master every stroke of correction, and write 
in blood upon him every word of reproach, that he had 
received. Delightful thought, now to be fulfilled ! 

It is far from our intention to harrow the feelings of 
our gentle readers, by descriptions of the cruel and fiendish 
torments inflicted by the heathen persecutors on our Chris- 
tian forefathers. Few are more horrible, yet few better 
authenticated, than the torture practised on the martyr 
Cassianus. Placed, bound, in the midst of his ferocious 
young tigers, he was left to be the lingering victim of 
their feeble cruelty. Some, as the Christian poet Pruden- 
tius tells us, cut their tasks upon him with the steel points, 
used in eng-raving- writing on wax-covered tablets ; others 
exercised the ingenuity of a precocious brutality, by inflict- 
ing every possible torment on his lacerated body. Loss of 
blood, and acute pain, at length exhausted him ; and he fell 
on the floor, without power to rise. A shout of exultation 
followed, new insults were inflicted, and the troop of youth- 
ful demons broke loose, to tell the story of their sport at 
their respective homes. To give Christians decent burial 



250 



fabiola; or, 



never entered into the minds of their persecutors; and 
Corvinus, who had glutted his eyes with the spectacle of his 
vengeance, and had urged on the first efforts at cruelty of 
his ready instruments, left the expiring man where he lay, 
to die unnoticed. His faithful servant, however, raised 
him up, and laid him on his bed, and sent a token, as he 
had preconcerted, to Pancratius, who was soon at his side, 
while his companion looked after preparations for their de- 
parture. The youth was horrified at what he beheld, and 
at the recital of his old master's exquisite torture, as he 
was edified by the account of his patience. For not a word 
of reproach had escaped him, and prayer alone had occu- 
pied his thoughts and tongue. 

Cassianus recognised his dear pupil, smiled upon him, 
pressed his hand in his own, but could not speak. After 
lingering till morning-, he placidly expired. The last rites 
of Christian sepulture were modestly paid to him on the 
spot, for the house was his ; and Pancratius hurried from 
the scene, with a heavy heart and a no slight rising of its 
indignation, against the heartless savage who had devised 
and witnessed, without remorse, such a tragedy. 

He was mistaken, however. No sooner was his re- 
venge fulfilled than Corvinus felt all the disgrace and 
shame of what he had done ; he feared it should be known 
to his father, who had always esteemed Cassianus; he 
feared the anger of the parents, whose children he had that 
day effectually demoralised, and fleshed to little less than 
parricide. He ordered his horses to be harnessed, but was 
told they must have some more hours' rest. This increased 
his displeasure ; remorse tormented him, and he sat down 
to drink, and so drown care and pass time. At length he 
started on his journey, and after baiting for an hour or 
two, pushed on through the night. The road was heavy 
from continued rain, and ran along the side of the great 
canal which drains the Pontine marshes, and between two 
rows of trees. 

Corvinus had drunk again at his halt, and was heated 
with wine, vexation, and remorse. The dragging pace of 
his jaded steeds provoked him, and he kept lashing them 
furiously on. While they were thus excited, they heard 



CH. XIX.] THE CHURCH" OF THE CATACOMBS. 251 

tlie tramp of horses coming fast on behind, and dashed for- 
ward at an uncontrollable speed. The attendants were soon 
left at a distance, and the frightened horses passed between 
the trees on to the narrow path by the canal, and galloped 
forward, rocking- the chariot from side to side at a reckless : 
rate. The horsemen behind hearing the violent rush of hoofs 
and wheels, and the shout of the followers, clapped spurs 
to their horses, and pushed gallantly forward. They had 
passed the runners some way, when they heard a crash and 
a plunge. The wheel had struck the trunk of a tree, the 
chariot had turned over, and its half-drunken driver had 
been tossed head over heels into the water. In a moment 
Pancratius was off his horse and by the side of the canal, 
tog-ether with his companion. 

By the faint light of the rising moon, and by the sound 
of his voice, the youth recognised Corvinus struggling- in 
the muddy stream. The side was not deep, but the high 
clayey bank was wet and slimy, and every time he at- 
tempted to climb it, his foot slipped, and he fell back into 
the deep water in the middle. He was, in fact, already be j 
coming benumbed and exhausted by his wintry bath. 

" It would serve him right to leave him there," mut- 
tered the rough centurion. 

" Hush, Quadratus ! how can you say so ? give me 
hold of your hand. So !" said the youth, leaning over the 
bank, and seizing his enemy by his arm, just as he was re- 
laxing- his hold on a withered shrub, and falling- back faint- 
ing into the stream. It would have been his last plunge. 
They pulled him out and laid him on the road, a pitiable 
figure for his greatest foe. They chafed his temples and 
hands ; and he had begun to revive, when his attendants 
came up. To their care they consigned him, tog-ether with 
his purse, which had fallen from his belt, as they drew him 
from the canal. But Pancratius took possession of his 
own pen-knife, which dropped out with it, and which Cor- 
vinus carried about him, as evidence to convict him of hav- 
ing cut down the edict. The servants pretended to Cor- 
vinus, when he had regained consciousness, that they had 
drawn him out of the water, but that his purse must have 
been lost in it, and lay still buried in the deep mud. They 



bore him to a neighbouring cottage, while the carriage was 
being repaired ; and had a good carouse with his money 
while he slept. 

Two acts of revenge had been thus accomplished in 
one day, — the pagan and the Christian. 



CHAPTER XX. 

THE PUBLIC WORKS. 

Tf ; before the edict, the Thermae of Dioclesian were being 
erected by the labour and sweat of Christian prisoners, it 
will not appear surprising, that their number and their suf- 
ferings should have greatly increased, with the growing in- 
tensity of a most savage persecution. That emperor himself 
was expected for the inauguration of his favourite build- 
ing, and hands were doubled on the work to expedite its 
completion. Chains of supposed culprits arrived each day 
from the port of Luna, from Sardinia, and even from the 
Crimea, or Chersonesus, where they had been engaged in 
quarries or mines ; and were put to labour in the harder 
departments of the building art. To transport materials, 
to saw and cut stone and marble, to mix the mortar, and 
to build up the walls, were the duties allotted to the reli- 
gious culprits, many of whom were men little accustomed 
to such menial toil. The only recompense which they re- 
ceived for their labour, was that of the mules and oxen which 
shared their occupation. Little better, if better, than a sta- 
ble to sleep in, food sufficient in quantity to keep up their 
strength, clothing enough to guard them from the incle- 
mency of the season, this was all they had to expect. Fet- 
ters on their ancles, heavy chains to prevent their escape, 
increased their sufferings ; and task-masters, acceptable in 
proportion as they were unreasonable, watched every gang 
with lash or stick in hand, ever ready to add pain to toil, 
whether it were to vent their own wanton cruelty upon 
unresisting objects, or to please their crueller masters. 
But the Christians of Rome took peculiar care of these 



OH. XX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 253 

blessed confessors, who were particularly venerated by 
them. Their deacons visited them, by bribing 1 their giiards ; 
and young- men would boldly venture among them, and 
distribute more nourishing food, or warmer clothing - to 
them, or give them the means of conciliating their keepers, 
so as to obtain better treatment at their hands. They 
would then also recommend themselves to their prayers, as 
they kissed the chains and the bruises, which these holy 
confessors bore for Christ. 

This assemblage of men, convicted of serving faithfully 
their divine Master, was useful for another purpose. Like 
the stew in which the luxurious Lucullus kept his lampreys 
ready fattened for a banquet ; like the cages in which rare 
birds, the pens in which well-fed cattle, were preserved for 
the sacrifice, or the feast of an imperial anniversary ; like 
the dens near the amphitheatre, in which ferocious beasts 
were fed for exhibition at the public games ; just so were the 
public works the preserves, from which at aay time could 
be drawn the materials for a sanguinary hecatomb, or a 
gratification of the popular appetite for cruel spectacles, on 
any occasion of festivity ; public stores of food for those 
fierce animals, whenever the Roman people wished to share 
in their savage propensities. 

Such an occasion was now approaching. The persecu- 
tion had lingered. No person of note had been yet cap- 
t"" nr I ; the failures of the first day had not been fully 
repaired; and something more wholesale was expected. 
The people demanded more sport; and an approaching 
imperial birthday justified their gratification. The wild 
beasts, which Sebastian and Pancratius had heard, yet 
roared for their lawful prey. " Christianos ad leones" 
might seem to have been interpreted by them, as meaning 
" that the Christians of right belonged to them." 

One afternoon, towards the end of December, Corvinus 
proceeded to the Baths of Dioclesian, accompanied by 
Catulus, who had an eye for proper combatants in the 
amphitheatre, such as a good dealer would have for cattle 
at a fair. He called for Rabirius, the superintendent of 
the convict department, and said to him, 

" Rabirius, I am come by order of the emperor, to 



'954 

select a sufficient number of the wicked Christians under 
your charge, for the honour of fighting in the amphitheatre, 
on occasion of the coming festival." 

" Really," answered the officer, " I have none to spare. 
I am obliged to finish the work in a given time, and I 
cannot do so, if I am left short of hands." 

" I cannot help that ; others will be got to replace 
those that are taken from you. You must walk Catulus 
and myself through your works, and let us choose those 
that will suit us." 

Rabirius, grumbling at this unreasonable demand, sub- 
mitted nevertheless to it, and took them into a vast area, 
just vaulted over. It was entered by a circular vestibule 
lighted from above, like the Pantheon. This led into one 
of the shorter arms of a cruciform hall of noble dimensions, 
into which opened a number of lesser, though still hand- 
some, chambers. At each angle of the hall, where the 
arms intersected one another, a huge granite pillar of one 
block had to be erected. Two were already in their places, 
one was girt with ropes delivered round capstans, ready to 
be raised on the morrow. A number of men were actively 
employed in making final preparations. Catulus nudged 
Corvinus, and pointed, with his thumb, to two fine youths, 
who, stripped slave-fashion to their waists, were specimens 
of manly athletic forms. 

" I must have those two, Rabirius," said the willing 
purveyor to wild beasts ; " they will do charmingly. I am 
sure they are Christians, they work so cheerfully." 

" I cannot possibly spare them at present. They are 
worth six men, or a pair of horses, at least, to me. Wait 
till the heavy work is over, and then they are at your 
service." 

" What are their names, that I may take a note of 
them ? And mind, keep them up in good condition." 

" They are called Largus and Smaragdus ; they are 
young men of excellent family, but work like plebeians, 
and will go with you nothing loth." 

" They shall have their wish," said Corvinus, with 
great glee. And so they had later. 

As they went through the works, however, they picked 



CH. XX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 255 

out a number of captives, for many of whom Rabirius 
made resistance, but generally in vain. At length they 
came near one of those chambers which flanked the eastern 
side of the longer arm of the hall. In one of them they 
saw a number of convicts (if we must use the term) resting 
after their labour. The centre of the group was an old 
man, most venerable in appearance, with a long white 
beard streaming on his breast, mild in aspect, gentle in 
word, cheerful in his feeble action. It was the confessor 
Satuminus, now in his eightieth year, yet loaded with two 
heavy chains. At each side were the more youthful 
labourers, Cyriacus and Sisinnius, of whom it is recorded, 
that, in addition to their own task-work, one on each side, 
they bore up his bonds. Indeed, we are told that their 
particular delight was, over and above their own assigned 
portion of toil, to help their weaker brethren, and perform 
their work for them.* But their time was not yet come ; 
for both of them, before they received their crowns, were 
ordained deacons in the next pontificate. 

Several other captives lay on the ground, about the 
old man's feet, as he, seated on a block of marble, was 
talking- to them, with a sweet gravity, which riveted their 
attention, and seemed to make them forget their sufferings. 
What was he saying to them ? Was he requiting Cyriacus 
for his extraordinary charity, by telling him, that, in com- 
memoration of it, a portion of the immense pile which they 
were toiling to raise, would be dedicated to God, under 
his invocation, become a title, and close its line of titulars 
by an illustrious name ?f Or was he recounting - another 
more glorious vision, how this smaller oratory was to be 
superseded and absorbed by a glorious temple in honour of 
the Queen of Angels, which should comprise the entire of 
that superb hall, with its vestibule, under the directing 
skill of the mightiest artistic genius that the world should 
ever see ? t What more consoling thought could have been 

* See Piazza, on the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, in his 
work on the Stations of Rome. 

f The last cardinal of the extinct title of St. Cyriacus's, formed 
out of a part of these Baths, was Cardinal Bembo. 

J Michelangelo. The noble and beautiful church of Sta. Maria 



256 

vouchsafed to those poor oppressed captives, than that 
they were not so much erecting - baths for the luxury of a 
heathen people, or the prodigality of a wicked emperor, as 
in truth building- up one of the stateliest churches in which 
the true God is worshipped, and the Virg-in Mother, who 
bore Him incarnate, is affectionately honoured '. 

From a distance Corvinus saw the group ; and paus- 
ing, asked the superintendent the names of those who 
composed it. He enumerated them readily ; then added, 
" You may as well take that old man, if you like ; for he 
is not worth his keep, so far as work goes." 

" Thank you," replied Corvinus, " a pretty figure he 
would cut in the amphitheatre. The people are not to be 
put off with decrepit old creatures, whom a single stroke 
of a bear's or tiger's paw kills outright. They like to see 
young blood flowing, and plenty of life struggling against 
wounds and blows, before death comes to decide the con- 
test. But there is one there whom you have not named. 
His face is turned from us ; he has not the prisoner's garb, 
nor any kind of fetter. Who can it be ?" 

" I do not know his name," answered Rabirius ; " but, 
he is a fine youth, who spends much of his time among 
the convicts, relieves them, and even at times helps them 
in then work. He pays, of course, well for being- allowed 
ail this ; so it is not our business to ask questions." 

"But it is mine, though," said Corvinus, sharply; 
and he advanced for this purpose. The voice caught the 
stranger's ear, and he turned round to look. 

Corvinus sprung upon him with the eye and action of 
a wild beast, seized him, and called out, with exultation, 
" Fetter him instantly. This time at least, Pancratius, 
thou shalt not escape." 

degli Angeli was made by him out of the central hall and circular 
vestibule, described in the text. The floor was afterwards raised, 
and thus the pillars were shortened, and the height of the building 
diminished by several feet. 



CH. XXI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 257 



CHAPTEE XXI. 

THE PRISON. 

If a modern Christian wishes really to know what his 
forefathers undenvent for the faith, during" three centuries 
of persecution, we would not have him content himself 
with visiting- the catacombs, as we have tried to make him 
do, and thus learning what sort of life they were compelled 
to lead; but we would advise him to peruse those imperish- 
able records, the Acts of the Martyrs, which will show 
him how they were made to die. We know of no writing's 
so moving, so tender, so consoling, and so ministering of 
strength to faith and to hope, after God's inspired words, 
as these venerable monuments. And if our reader, so ad- 
vised, have not leisure sufficient to read much upon this 
subject, we would limit him willingly to one specimen, 
the genuine Acts of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas. It is true 
that they will be best read by the scholar in their plain 
African latinity; but we trust that some one will soon 
give us a worthy English version of these, and some other 
similar, early Christian documents. The ones which we 
have singled out are the same as were known to St. Augus- 
tine, and cannot be read by any one without emotion. If 
the reader would compare the morbid sensibility, and the 
overstrained excitement, endeavoured to be produced by a 
modern French writer, in the imaginary journal of a cul- 
prit condemned to death, down to the immediate approach 
of execution, with the unaffected pathos, and charming 
truthfulness, which pervades the corresponding narrative 
of Vivia Perpetua, a delicate lady of twenty-one years of 
age, he would not hesitate in concluding - , how much more 
natural, graceful, and interesting are the simple recitals 
of Christianity, than the boldest fictions of romance. And 
when our minds are sad, or the petty persecutions of our 
times incline our feeble hearts to murmur, we cannot do 
better than turn to that really golden, because truthful 
legend, or to the history of the noble martyrs of Yienne, 
or Lyons, or to the many similar, still extant records, to 

s 



258 fabiola; or, 

nerve our courage, by the contemplation of what children 
and women, catechumens and slaves, suffered, unmurmur- 
ing, for Christ. 

But we are wandering from our narrative. Pancratius, 
with some twenty more, fettered, and chained together, 
Were led through the streets to prison. As they were thus 
dragged along, staggering and stumbling helplessly, they 
were unmercifully struck by the guards who conducted 
them ; and any persons near enough to reach them, dealt 
them blows and kicks without remorse. Those further 
off pelted them with stones or offal, and assailed them with 
insulting ribaldry.* .They reached the Mamertine prison 
at last, and were thrust down into it, and found there 
already other victims, of both sexes, awaiting their time of 
sacrifice. The youth had just time, while he was being 
handcuffed, to request one of the captors to inform his 
mother and Sebastian of what had happened ; and he slipt 
his purse into his hand. 

A prison in ancient Rome was not the place to which 
a poor man might court committal ; hoping there to enjoy 
better fare and lodging than he did at home. Two or 
three of these dungeons, for they are nothing better, 
still remain ; and a brief description of the one which we 
have mentioned, will give our readers some idea of what 
confessorship cost, independent of martyrdom. 

The Mamertine prison is composed of two square sub- 
terranean chambers, one below the other, with only one 
round aperture in the centre of each vault, through which 
alone light, air, food, furniture, and men could pass. When 
the upper story was full, we may imagine how much of 
the two first could reach the lower. No other . means 
of ventilation, drainage, or access, coidd exist. The walls, 
of large stone blocks, had, or rather have, rings fastened 
into them, for securing" the prisoners ; but many tised to be 
laid on the floor, with their feet fastened in the stocks ; and 
the ingenious cruelty of the persecutors often increased the 
discomfort of the damp stone floor, by strewing with broken' 
potsherds this only bed allowed to the mangled limbs, and 
* See the account of St. Pothinus, liuinart, i. p. 145.- 



CH. XXI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 259 

welted backs, of the tortured Christians. Hence we have 
in Africa a company of martyrs, headed by SS. Saturninus 
and Dativus, who all perished through their suffering's in 
prison. And the acts of the Lyonese martyrs inform us, 
that many new-comers expired in the jail, killed by its 
severities, before their bodies had endured any torments; 
while, on the contrary, some who returned to it so cruelly 
tortured that their recovery appeared hopeless, without any 
medical or other assistance, there regained their health.* 
At the same time the Christians bought access to these* 
abodes of pain, but not of sorrow, and furnished whatever 
could, under such circumstances, relieve the sufferings, and 
increase the comforts, temporal and spiritual, of these most 
cherished and venerated of their brethren. 

Roman justice required at least the outward forms of 
trial ; and hence the Christian captives were led from their 
dungeons before the tribunal ; where they were subjected 
to an interrogatory, of which most precious examples have 
been preserved in the proconsular Acts of Martyrs, just 
as they were entered by the secretary or registrar of the 
court. 

When the Bishop of Lyons, Pothinus, now in his nine- 
tieth year, was asked, " Who is the God of the Christians ?" 
he replied, with simple dignity, " If thou shalt be worthy, 
thou shalt know."t Sometimes the judge would enter into 
a discussion with his prisoner, and necessarily get the worst 
of it ; though the latter would seldom go further with him, 
than simply reiterating his plain profession of the Christian 
faith. Often, as in the case of one PtolomEeus, beautifully 
recited by St. Justin, and in that of St. Perpetua, he was 
content to ask the simple question, Art thou a Christian? 
and upon an affirmative reply, proceeded to pronounce ca- 
pital sentence. 

Pancratius and his companion stood before the judge ; 
for it wanted only three days to the mvnus, or games, at 
which they were to " fight with wild beasts." 

" What art thou ?" he asked of one. 



* Ruinart,.Tp. 145. 

f " Si dignus fueris, cognosces." lb. 



260 fabiola; or, 

" I am a Christian, by the help of God," was the re- 
joinder. 

{l And who art thou ?" said the prefect to Rusticus. 

" I am, indeed, a slave of Caesar's," answered the pri- 
soner ; " but becoming 1 a Christian, I have been freed by 
Christ Himself; and by His grace and mercy, I have been 
made partaker of the same hope as those whom you see." 

Then turning to a holy priest, Lucianus, venerable for 
his years and his virtues, the judge thus addressed him : 
"Come, be obedient to the gods themselves, and to the 
imperial edicts." 

u No one," answered the old man, " can be repre- 
hended or condemned who obeys the precepts of Jesus 
Christ our Saviour." 

" What sort of learning and studies dost thou pursue ?" 

" I have endeavoured to master every science, and 
have tried every variety of learning. But finally I adhered 
to the doctrines of Christianity; although they do not 
please those who follow the wanderings of false opinions." 

" Wretch ! dost thou find delight in that learning?" 

" The greatest ; because I follow the Christians in 
right doctrine." 

" And what is that doctrine ?" 

" The right doctrine, which we Christians piously hold, 
is to believe in one God, the Maker and Creator of all 
things visible and invisible ; and to confess the Lord Jesus 
Christ the Son of God, anciently foretold by the prophets, 
who will come to judg'e mankind, and is the preacher and 
master of salvation, to those who will learn well under 
Him. I indeed, as a mere man, am too weak and insignifi- 
cant to be able to utter any thing great of His infinite 
Deity : this office belongs to the prophets."* 

" Thou art, methinks, a master of error to others, and 
deservest to be more severely punished than the rest. Let 
this Lucianus be kept in the nerve (stocks) with his feet 
stretched to the fifth hole.f — And you two women, what 
are your names and condition ?" 

* Acts of St. Justin. Ruinart, p. 129. 

f This is mentioned as the extreme possible extension. 



CH. XXI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 261 

" I am a Christian, who have no spouse but Christ. 
My name is Secunda," replied the one. 

" And I am a widow, named Rufina, professing 1 the 
same saving faith," continued the other. 

At length, after having put similar questions, and re- 
ceived similar answers from all the others, except from one 
wretched man, who, to the grief of the rest, wavered and 
agreed to offer sacrifice, the prefect turned to Pancratius, 
and thus addressed him. " And now, insolent youth, 
who hadst the audacity to tear down the edict of the 
divine emperors, even for thee there shall be mercy, if 
yet thou wilt sacrifice to the gods. Show thus at once 
thv piety and thy wisdom ; for thou art yet but a strip- 
ling." 

Pancratius signed himself with the sign of the saving 
cross, and calmly replied, " I am the servant of Christ. 
Him I acknowledge by my mouth, hold firm in my heart, 
incessantly adore. This youth which you behold in me 
has the wisdom of grey hairs, if it worship but one God. 
But your gods, with those who adore them, are destined 
to eternal destruction."* 

" Strike him on the mouth for his blasphemy, and 
beat him with rods," exclaimed the angry judge. 

" I thank thee," replied meekly the noble youth, " that 
thus I suffer some of the same punishment as was inflicted 
on my Lord."+ 

The prefect then pronounced sentence in the usual form. 
" Lucianus, Pancratius, Rusticus, and others, and the 
women Secunda and Rufina, who have all owned them- 
selves Christians, and refuse to obey the sacred emperor, 
or worship the gods of Rome, we order to be exposed to 
wild beasts, in the Flavian amphitheatre." 

The mob howled with delight and hatred, and accom- 
panied the confessors back to their prison with this rough 
music ; but they were gradually overawed by the dignity 
of their gait, and the shining calmness of their counte- 
nances. Some men asserted that they must have per- 

* lb. p. 56, Acts of St. Felicitas and her sons. 
t p. 220, Acts of St. Perpetua, &c. 



262 

fumed themselves, for they could perceive a fragrant at- 
mosphere surrounding their persons.* 



CHAPTEE XXII. 

THE VIATICUM. 



A true contrast to the fury and discord without, was 
the scene within the prison. Peace, serenity, cheerfulness, 
and joy reigned there; and the rough stone walls and 
vaults re-echoed to the chant of psalmody, in which 
Pancratius was precentor, and in which depth called out 
to depth ; for the prisoners in the lower dungeon responded 
to those above, and kept up the alternation of verses, 
in those psalms which the circumstances naturally sug- 
gested. 

The eve of " fighting with," that is being- torn to 
pieces by, wild beasts, was always a day of greater liberty. 
The friends of the intended victims were admitted to see 
them; and the Christians boldly took full advantage of 
the permission to flock to the prison, and commend 
themselves to the prayers of the blessed confessors of 
Christ. At evening tliey were led forth, to enjoy what 
was called the free supper, that is, an abundant, and 
even luxurious, public feast. The table was surrounded 
by pagans, curious to watch the conduct and looks of the 
morrow's combatants. But they could discern neither 
the bravado and boisterousness, nor the dejection and bit- 
terness, of ordinary culprits. To the guests it was truly 
an agape, or love-feast ; for they supped with calm joy- 
fulness amidst cheerful conversation. Pancratius, however, 
once or twice, reproved the unfeeling' curiosity, and rude 
remarks, of the crowd, saying, " To-morrow is not sufficient 
for you, because you love to look upon the objects of your 
future hatred. To-day you are our friends; to-morrow 
our foes. But mark well our countenances, that you 
may know them again in the day of judgment." Many 
* pp. 219 and 146, Acts of Lyonese Martyrs. 



CH. XXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 1263 

retired at this rebuke, and not a few were led by it to 
conversion.* 

But while the persecutors thus prepared a feast for the 
bodies of their victims, the Church, their mother, had been 
preparing - a much more dainty banquet for the souls of her 
children. They had been constantly attended on by the 
deacons, particularly Reparatus, who would gladly have 
joined their company. But his duty forbade this at pre- 
sent. After, therefore, having- provided as well as pos- 
sible for their temporal wants, he had arranged with the 
pious priest Dionysius, who still dwelt in the house of 
Agnes, to send, towards evening-, sufficient portions of the 
Bread of life, to feed, early in the morning- of their battle, 
the champions of Christ. Although the deacons bore the 
consecrated elements from the principal church to others, 
where they Avere only distributed by the titulars, the office 
of conveying them to the martyrs in prison, and even to 
the dying-, Avas committed to inferior ministers. On this 
day, that the hostile passions of heathen Rome Avere un- 
usually excited by the coming- slaughter of so many Chris- 
tian victims, it was a work of more than common danger 
to discharge this duty. For the revelations of Torquatus 
had made it known, that Fulvius had carefully noted all 
the ministers of the sanctuary, and given a description of 
them to his numerous active spies. Hence they could 
scarcely venture out by day, unless thoroughly disguised. 

The sacred Bread was prepared, and the priest turned 
round from the altar on which it was placed, to see Avho 
would be its safest bearer. Before any other could step 
forward, the young acolyte Tarcisius knelt at his feet. 
With his hands extended before him, ready to receive the 
sacred deposit, Avith a countenance beautiful in its lovely 
innocence as an angel's, he seemed to entreat for prefer- 
ence, and even to claim it. 

" Thou art too young, my child," said the kind priest, 
filled with admiration of the picture before him. 

" My youth, holy father, will be my best protection. 
Oh ! do not refuse me this great honour." The tears 
stood in the boy's eyes, and his cheeks gloAved with a mo- 
* II. p. 219. 



264 

dest emotion, as he spoke these words. He stretched forth 
his hands eagerly, and his entreaty was so full of fervour 
and courage, that the plea was irresistible. The priest 
took the Divine Mysteries wrapped up carefully in a linen 
cloth, then in an outer covering - , and put them on his 
palms saying : 

" Remember, Tarcisius, what a treasure is intrusted 
to thy feeble care. Avoid public places as thou goest 
along - ; and remember that holy things must not be deli- 
vered to dogs, nor pearls be cast before swine. Thou wilt 
keep safely God's sacred gifts ?" 

" I will die rather than betray them," answered the 
holy youth, as he folded the heavenly trust in the bosom 
of his tunic, and with cheerful reverence started on his 
journey. There was a gravity beyond the usual expres- 
sion of his years stamped upon his countenance, as he 
tripped lightly along the streets, avoiding equally the more 
public, and the too low, thoroughfares. 

As he was approaching- the door of a large mansion, 
its mistress, a rich lady without children, saw him coming-, 
and was struck with his beauty and sweetness, as, with 
arms folded on his breast, he was hastening on. " Stay 
one moment, dear child," she said, putting herself in his 
way : " tell me thy name, and where do thy parents 
live?" 

" I am Tarcisius, an orphan boy," he replied, looking 
up smilingly • " and I have no home, save one which it 
might be displeasing to thee to hear." 

" Then come into my house and rest ; I wish to speak 
to thee. Oh, that I had a child like thee !" 

" Not now, noble lady, not now. I have intrusted to 
me a most solemn and sacred duty, and I must not tarry 
a moment in its performance." 

" Then promise to come to me to-morrow ; this is my 
house." 

" If I am alive, I will," answered the boy with a kindled 
look, which made him appear to her as a messenger from 
a higher sphere. She watched him a long- time, and after 
some deliberation determined to follow him. Soon, how- 
ever, she heard a tumult with horrid cries, which made 



CH. XXII.j THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. CCS 

her pause, on her way, until they had ceased, when she 
went on again. 

In the meantime, Tarcisius, with his thoughts fixed on 
better tilings than her inheritance, hastened on, and shortly 
came into an open space, where boys, just escaped from 
school, were beginning- to play. 

" We just want one to make up the game ; where shall 
we get him V said their leader. 

" Capital !" exclaimed another, " here comes Tarcisius, 
whom I have not seen for an age. He used to be an ex- 
cellent hand at all sports. Come, Tarcisius," he added, 
stopping him by seizing his arm, " whither so fast 1 take 
a part in our g-ame, that's a good fellow." 

" I can't, Petilius, now ; I really can't. I am going 
on business of great importance." 

" But you shall," exclaimed the first speaker, a strong 
and bullying youth, laying hold of him. " I will have 
no sulking, when I want any thing done. So come, join 
us at once." 

" I entreat you," said the poor boy feelingly, "do let 
me go." 

" No such thing," replied the other. " What is that 
you seem to be carrying so carefully in your bosom 1 A 
letter, I suppose ; well, it will not addle by being* for half 
an hour out of its nest. Give it to me, and I will put it 
by safe while we play." And he snatched at the sacred 
deposit in his breast. 

" Never, never," answered the child, looking up towards 
heaven. 

" I will see it," insisted the other rudely ; " I will know 
what is this wonderful secret." And he commenced pulling 
him roughly about. A crowd of men from the neighbour- 
hood soon got round ; and all asked eagerly what was the 
matter. They saw a boy, who, with folded arms, seemed 
endowed with a supernatural strength, as he resisted every 
effort of one much bigger and stronger, to make him reveal 
what he was bearing. Cuffs, pulls, blows, kicks seemed 
to have no effect. He bore them all without a murmur, 
or an attempt to retaliate ; but he unflinchingly kept his 
purpose. 



266 fabigla; oh, 

" What is it ? what can it be ?" one began to ask the 
other ; when Fulvius chanced to pass by, and joined the 
circle round the combatants. He at once recognised Tar- 
cisius, having 1 seen him at the Ordination ; and being asked, 
as a better-dressed man, the same question, he replied con- 
temptuously, as he turned on his heel, "What is it? Why 
only a Christian ass, bearing" the mysteries."* 

This was enough. Fulvius, while he scorned such un- 
profitable prey, knew well the effect of his word. Heathen 
curiosity, to see the mysteries of the Christians revealed, 
and to insult them, was aroused, and a general demand 
was made to Tarcisius, to yield up his charge. '-Never 
with life," was his only reply. A heavy blow from a 
smith's fist nearly stunned him, while the blood flowed 
from the wound. Another and another followed, till, co- 
vered with bruises, but with his arms crossed fast upon his 
breast, he fell heavily on the ground. The mob closed 
upon him, and were just seizing him to tear open his 
thrice-holy trust, when they felt themselves pushed aside, 
right and left, by some giant strength. Some went reeling 
to the further side of the square, others were spun round 
and round, they knew not how, till they fell where they 
were, and the rest retired before a tall athletic oflicer, who 
was the author of this overthrow. He had no sooner cleared 
the ground, than he was on his knees, and with tears in his 
eyes, raised up the bruised and fainting boy, as tenderly as 
a mother could have done, and in most gentle tones asked 
him, " Are you much hurt, Tarcisius ?" 

"Never mind me, Quadratus," answered he, opening 
his eyes with a smile ; "but I am carrying the divine mys- 
teries ; take care of them." 

The soldier raised the boy in his arms with tenfold re- 
verence, as if bearing, not only the sweet victim of a youth- 
ful sacrifice, a martyr's relics, but the very King and Lord 
of Martyrs, and the divine Victim of eternal salvation. 
The child's head leaned in confidence on the stout soldier's 
neck, but his arms and hands never left their watchful 
custody of the confided gift ; and his gallant bearer felt 

* Asinus portans mysteria, a Latin proverb. 



CII. XXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 267 

no weight in the hallowed double burden which he carried. 
]No one stopped him, till a lady met him and stared amaz- 
edly at him. She drew nearer, and looked closer at what 
he carried. " Is it possible ?" she exclaimed with terror, 
" is that Tarcisius, whom I met a few moments ago, so 
fair and lovely? Who can have done this?" 

" Madam," replied Quadratus, u they have murdered 
him because he was a Christian." 

The lady looked for an instant on the child's coun- 
tenance, lie opened his eyes upon her, smiled, and ex- 
pired. From that look came the lig-ht of faith : she has- 
tened to be a Christian likewise. 

The venerable Dionysius could hardly see for weep- 
ing, as he removed the child's hands, and took from his 
bosom, unviolated, the Holy of holies ; and he thought he 
looked more like an angel now, sleeping the martyr's slum- 
ber, than he did when living scarcely an hour before. Quad- 
ratus himself bore him to the cemetery of Callistus, where 
he was buried amidst the admiration of older believers; 
and later the holy Pope Damasus composed for him an 
epitaph, which no one can read, without concluding - that 
the belief in the real presence of Our Lord's Body in the 
B. Eucharist was the same then as now : 

" Tarcisium sanctum Christi saoramenta gerentem, 
Cum male sana manus peteret vulgare profanis ; 
Ipse animam potius voluit dimittere caesus 
Prodere quam canibus rabidis coelestia membra."* 

He is mentioned in the Roman martyrology, on the 15th 
of August, as commemorated in the cemetery of Callistus ; 

* " Christ's secret gifts, by good Tarcisius borne, 
The mob profanely bade him to display; 
He rather gave his own limbs to be torn, 
Than Christ's celestial to mad dogs betray." 

Carmen xviii. 

See also Baronius's notes to the Martyrology. The words " (Christi) 
coelestia membra," applied to the Blessed Eucharist, supply one of 
those casual, but most striking, arguments that result from identity 
of habitual thought in antiquity, more than from the use of studied 
or conventional phrases. 



268 FABIOLA ; OH, 

whence Lis relics were, in due time, translated to the church 
of St. Sylvester in Campo, as an old inscription declares. 

News of this occurrence did not reach the prisoners till 
after their feast ; and perhaps the alarm that they were 
to be deprived of the spiritual food to which they looked 
forward for strength, was the only one that could have over- 
cast, even slightly, the serenity of their souls. At this mo- 
ment Sebastian entered, and perceived at once that some 
unpleasant news had arrived, and as quickly divined what 
it was ; for Quadratus had already informed him of all. 
He cheered up, therefore, the confessors of Christ; assured 
them that they should not be deprived of their coveted 
food ; then whispered a few words to Reparatus the deacon, 
who flew out immediately with a look of bright intelligence. 
Sebastian, being known to the g-uards, had passed freely 
in, and out of, the prison daily ; and had been indefatigable 
in his care of its inmates. But now he was come to take 
his last farewell of his dearest friend, Pancratius, who had 
longed for this interview. They drew to one side, when 
the youth began : 

"Well, Sebastian, do you remember when we heard 
the wild beasts roar, from your window, and looked at the 
many gaping arches of the amphitheatre, as open for the 
Christian's triumph ?" 

" Yes, my dear boy ; I remember that evening- well, 
and it seemed to me as if your heart anticipated then, the 
scenes that await you to-morrow." 

" It did, in truth. I felt an inward assurance that I 
should be one of the first to appease the roaring fury of 
those deputies of human cruelty. But now that the time 
is come, I can hardly believe myself worthy of so immense 
an honour. What can I have done, Sebastian, not indeed 
to deserve it, but to be chosen out as the object of so great 
a grace ?" 

" You know, Pancratius, that it is not he who willeth, 
nor he that runneth, but God who hath mercy, that maketh 
the election. But tell me rather, how do you now feel 
about to-morrow's glorious destiny ?" 

" To tell the truth, it seems to me so magnificent, so 
far beyond my rig-ht to claim, that sometimes it appears 



CH. XXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 2C9 

more like a vision than a certainty. Does it not sound 
almost incredible to you, that I, who this night am in a 
cold, dark, and dismal prison, shall be, before another sun 
has set, listening- to the harping of angelic lyres, walking 
in the procession of white-robed Saints, inhaling the per- 
fume of celestial incense, and drinking from the crystal 
waters of the stream of life ? Is it not too like what one 
may read or hear about another, but hardly dares to 
think is to be, in a few hours, real of himself?" 

" And nothing- more than you have described, Pancra- 
tius?" 

" Oh, yes, far more ; far more than one can name with- 
out presumption. That I, a boy just come out of school, 
who have done nothing for Christ as yet, should be able to 
say, ' Sometime to-morrow, I shall see Him face to face, and 
adore Him, and shall receive from Him a palm and a 
crown, yea, and an affectionate embrace,' — I feel is so like 
a beautiful hope, that it startles me to think, it will soon 
be that no longer. And yet, Sebastian," he continued fer- 
vently, seizing both his friend's hands, " it is true ; it is 
true !'"' 

" And more still, Pancratius." 

" Yes, Sebastian, more still, and more. To close one's 
eyes upon the faces of men, and open them in full gaze on 
the face of God ; to shut them upon ten thousand counte- 
nances scowling on you with hatred, contempt, and fury, 
from every step of the amphitheatre, and unclose them in- 
stantly upon that one sunlike intelligence, whose splendour 
would dazzle or scorch, did not its beams surround, and 
embrace, and welcome us ; to dart them at once into the 
furnace of God's heart, and plunge into its burning- ocean 
of mercy and love without fear of destruction : surely, Se- 
bastian, it sounds like presumption in me to say, that to- 
morrow — nay, hush ! the watchman from the capitol is 
proclaiming midnight — that to-day, to-day, I shall enjoy 
all this!" 

" Happy Pancratius !" exclaimed the soldier, " you an- 
ticipate already by some hours the raptures to come." 

" And do you know, dear Sebastian," continued the 
youth, as if unconscious of the interruption, " it looks to 



270 FABIOLAJ OR, 

me so good and merciful in God, to grant me such a death. 
How much more willingly must one at my age face it, 
when it puts an end to all that is hateful on earth, when 
it extinguishes but the sight of hideous beasts and sinning 
men, scarcely less frightful than they, and hushes only the 
fiendlike yells of both ! How much more trying would it 
be to part with the last tender look of a mother like mine, 
and shut one's ears to the sweet plaint of her patient 
voice ! True, I shall see her and hear her, for the last 
time, as we have arranged, to-day before my fight : but I 
kuow she will not unnerve me." 

A tear had made its way into the affectionate boy's 
eye ; but he suppressed it, and said with a gay tone, 

" But, Sebastian, you have not fulfilled your promise, 
— your double promise to me, — to tell me the secrets you 
concealed from me. This is your last opportunity j so, 
come, let me know all." 

" Do you remember well what the secrets were ?" 

" Eight well, indeed, for they have much perplexed 
me. First on that night of the meeting in your apart- 
ments, you said there was one motive strong enough to 
check your ardent desire to die for Christ ; and lately you 
refused to give me your reason for despatching me hastily 
to Campania, and joined this secret to the other : how, I 
cannot conceive." 

" Yet they form but one. I had promised to watch 
over your true welfare, Pancratius : it was a duty of friend- 
ship and love that I had assumed. I saw your eagerness 
after martyrdom ; I knew the ardent temperament of your 
youthful heart; I dreaded lest you should commit your- 
self by some over-daring- action, which might tarnish, even 
as lightly as a breath does finely-tempered steel, the purity 
of your desire, or tip with a passing blight one single leaf 
of your palm. I determined, therefore, to restrain my own 
earnest longings, till I had seen you safe through danger. 
Was this right ?" 

"Oh, it was too kind of you, dear Sebastian; it was 
nobly kind. But how is this connected with my journey?" 

'• If I had not sent you away, you would have been 
seized for your boldly tearing down the edict, or your re- 



CH. XXII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 271 

Imke of the judge in his court. You would have been 
certainly condemned, and would have suffered for Christ ; 
but your sentence would have proclaimed a different, and 
a civil, offence, that of rebellion against the emperors. 
And moreover, my dear boy, you would have been singled 
out for a triumph. You would have been pointed at by 
the very heathens with honour, as a gallant and daring 
youth ; you might have been disturbed, even in your 
conflict, by a transient cloud of pride ; at any rate, you 
would have been spared that ignominy, which forms the 
distinctive merit and the special glory, of dying for simply 
being- a Christian." 

" Quite true, Sebastian," said Pancratius with a blush, 
" But when I saw you," continued the soldier, "taken 
in the performance of a generous act of charity towards 
the confessors of Christ ; when I saw you dragged through 
the streets, chained to a galley-slave, as a common cul- 
prit ; when I saw you pelted and hooted, like other be- 
lievers ; when I heard sentence pronounced on you in 
common with the rest, because you are a Christian, and for 
nothing else, I felt that my task was ended ; I woidd not 
have raised a finger to save you." 

" How like God's love has yours been to me — so wise, 
so generous, and so unsparing- !" sobbed out Pancratius, 
as he threw himself on the soldier's neck; then continued: 
" Promise me one thing more : that this day you will keep 
near me to the end, and will secure my last legacy to my 
mother." 

" Even if it cost my life, I will not fail. We shall not 
be parted long, Pancratius." 

The deacon now gave notice that all was ready, for 
offering up the holy oblation in the dungeon itself. The 
two youths looked round, and Pancratius was indeed 
amazed. The holy priest Lucianus was laid stretched on the 
floor, with his limbs painfully distended in the catasta or 
stocks, so that he could not rise. Upon his breast Repa- 
ratus had spread the three linen cloths requisite for the 
altar ; on them was laid the unleavened bread, and the 
mingled chalice, which the deacon steadied with his hand. 
The head of the aged priest was held up, as he read tha 



272 fabiola; or, 

accustomed prayers, and performed the prescribed cere- 
monies of the oblation and consecration. And then each 
one, approaching devoutly, and with tears of gratitude, 
received from his consecrated hand his share, — that is, the 
whole of the mystical food.* 

Marvellous and beautiful instance of the power of adap- 
tation in God's Church ! Fixed as are her laws, her in- 
genious love finds means, through their very relaxation, 
to demonstrate their principles; nay, the very exception 
presents only a sublimer application of them. Here was a 
minister of God, and a dispenser of His mysteries, who for 
once was privileged to be, more than others, like Him 
whom he represented, — at once the Priest and the Altai 1 . 
The Church prescribed that the Holy Sacrifice should be 
offered only over the relics of martyrs ; here was a martyr, 
by a singular prerogative, permitted to offer it over his 
own body. Yet living, he " lay beneath the feet of God." 
The bosom still heaved, and the heart panted under the 
Divine Mysteries, it is true ; but that was only part of 
the action of the minister : while self was already dead, 
and the sacrifice of life was, in all but act, completed in 
him. There was only Christ's life within and without the 
sanctuary of that breast.f Was ever viaticum for martyrs 
more worthily prepared ? 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

THE FIGHT. 

The morning broke light and frosty; and the sun, glitter- 
ing on the gilded ornaments of the temples and other pub- 
lic buildings, seemed to array them in holiday splendour. 
And the people, too, soon come forth into the streets in 
their gayest attire, decked out with unusual richness. 
The various streams converge towards the Flavian amphi- 
theatre, now better known by the name of the Coliseum. 

* Such a celebration of the Divine Mysteries, by a priest of 
this name, at Antioch, is recorded in his Acts. (See Ruinart, torn, 
iii. p. 182,. note.) 

t " I lhe now, not I, but Christ liveth in me." Gal. ii. 20. 



CH XX1II.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 273 

Each one directs his steps to the arch indicated by the 
number of his ticket, and thus the hug-e monster keeps 
sucking- in by degrees that stream of life, which soon ani- 
mates and enlivens its oval tiers over tiers of steps, till its 
interior is tapestried all round with human faces, and its 
walls seem to rock and wave to and fro, by the swaying of 
the living- mass. And, after this shall have been gorged 
with blood, and inflamed with fury, it will melt once more, 
and rush out in a thick continuous flow through the many 
avenues by which it entered, now bearing- their fitting 
name of Vomitoria ; for never did a more polluted stream 
of the dregs and pests of humanity issue from an unbe- 
coming reservoir, through ill-assorted channels, than the 
Roman mob, drunk with the blood of martyrs, gushing 
forth from the pores of the splendid amphitheatre. 

The emperor came to the games surrounded by his 
court, with all the pomp and circumstance which befitted 
an imperial festival, keen as any of his subjects to witness 
the cruel games, and to feed his eyes with a feast of car- 
nage. His throne was on the eastern side of the amphi- 
theatre, where a large space, called the pidvinar, was re- 
served, and richly decorated for the imperial court. 

Various sports succeeded one another ; and many a 
gladiator killed, or wounded, had sprinkled the bright 
sand with blood, when the people, eager for fiercer com- 
bats, began to call, or roar for the Christians and the wild 
beasts. It is time, therefore, for us to think of our cap- 
tives. 

Before the citizens were astir, they had been removed 
from the prison to a strong- chamber called the spolia- 
torium, the press-room, where their fetters and chains were 
removed. An attempt was made to dress them gaudily 
as heathen priests and priestesses ; but they resisted, urg- 
ing that as they had come spontaneously to the fight, it 
was unfair to make them appear in a disguise which they 
abhorred. During the early part of the day they remained 
thus together encouraging- one another, and singing the 
Divine praises, in spite of the shouts which drowned their 
voices from time to time. 

While they were thus engaged, Corvinus entered, and, 



•274 FABIOLA; OR, 

with a look of insolent triumph, thus accosted Pancra- 
tius : 

" Thanks to the gods, the day is come which I have 
long 1 desired. It has been a tiresome and tough straggle 
between us who should fall uppermost. I have won it." 

" How sayest thou, Corvinus ? when and how have I 
•contended with thee ?" 

" Always : every where. Thou hast haunted me in 
my dreams ; thou hast danced before me like a meteor, 
and I have tried in vain to grasp thee. Thou hast been 
my tormentor, my evil genius. I have hated thee ; de- 
voted thee to the infernal gods ; cursed thee and loathed 
thee; and now my day of vengeance is come." 

" Methinks," replied Pancratius, smiling, " this does 
not look like a combat. It has been all on one side ; for 
Zhave done none of these things towards thee." 

" No? thinkest thou that I believe thee, when thou 
hast lain ever as a viper on my path, to bite my heel, and 
overthrow me?" 

" Where, I again ask ?" 

"Everywhere, I repeat. At school; in the Lady Ag- 
nes's house ; in the Forum ; in the cemetery ; in my father's 
own court ; at Chromatius's villa. Yes, every where." 

" And nowhere else but where thou hast named 1 when 
thy chariot was dashed furiously along- the Appian way, 
didst thou not hear the tramp of horses' hoofs trying to 
overtake thee ?" 

" Wretch !" exclaimed the prefect's son in a fury ; " and 
was it thy accursed steed which, purposely urged forward, 
frightened mine, and nearly caused my death '.<"' 

" No, Corvinus, hear me calmly. It is the last time 
we shall speak together. I was travelling quietly with a 
companion towards Rome, after having paid the last rites 
to our master Cassianus" (Corvinus winced, for he knew 
not this before), " when I heard the clatter of a runaway 
chariot ; and then, indeed, I put spurs to my horse ; and 
it is well for thee that I did." 

" How so ?" 

" Because I reached thee just in time : when thy 
. strength was nearly exhausted, and thy blood almost 



CH. XXIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 275 

frozen by repeated plung-es in the cold canal ; and when thy 
arm, already benumbed, had let go its last stay, and thou 
wast falling- backwards for the last time into the water. 
I saw thee : I knew thee, as I took hold of thee, insensible. 
I had in my grasp the murderer of one most dear to me. 
Divine justice seemed to have overtaken him ; there was 
only my will between him and his doom. It was my day 
of vengeance, and I fully gratified it." 
" Ha ! and how, pray '*' 

" By drawing' thee out, and laying- thee on the bank, 
and chafing thee till thy heart resumed its functions ; and 
then consigning- thee to thy servants, rescued from death." 

" Thou liest !" screamed Corvinus ; " my servants told 
me that they drew me out." 

" And did they give thee my knife, tog-ether with thy 
leopard-skin purse, which I found on the g-round, after I 
had dragged thee forth?" 

" No ; they said the purse was lost in the canal. It 
was a leopard-skin purse, the gift of an African sorceress. 
What sayest thou of the knife V 

" That it is here, see it, still rusty with the water ; thy 
purse I gave to thy slaves ; my own knife I retained for 
myself; look at it again. Dost thou believe me now ? Have 
I been always a viper on thy path ?" 

Too ungenerous to acknowledge that he had been con- 
quered in the struggle between them, Corvinus only felt 
himself withered, degraded, before his late schoolfellow, 
crumbled like a clot of dust in his hands. His very heart 
seemed to him to blush. He felt sick, and staggered, hung- 
down his head, and sneaked away. He cursed the games, 
the emperor, the yelling rabble, the roaring beasts, his horses 
and chariot, his slaves, his father, himself, — every thing- 
and every body except one — he could not, for his life, curse 
Pancratius. 

He had reached the door, when the youth called him 
back. He turned and looked at him with a glance of re- 
spect, almost approaching to love. Pancratius put his hand 
on his arm, and said, " Corvinus, I have freely forg-iven 
thee. There is One above, who cannot forg-ive without 
repentance. Seek pardon from Him. If not, I foretell to 



276 fabiola; or, 

thee this day, that by whatsoever death I die, thou too 
shalt one day perish." 

Corvinus slunk away, and appeared no more that day. 
He lost the sight on which his coarse imagination had 
gloated for days, which he had longed for during months. 
When the holiday was over, he was found by his father 
completely intoxicated : it was the only way he knew of 
drowning remorse. 

As he was leaving the prisoners, the lanista, or master 
of the gladiators, entered the room, and summoned them to 
the combat. They hastily embraced one another, and took 
leave on earth. They entered the arena, or pit of the am- 
phitheatre, opposite the imperial seat, and had to pass be- 
tween two files of venatores, or huntsmen, who had the 
care of the wild beasts, each armed with a heavy whip, 
wherewith he inflicted a blow on every one, as he went by 
him. They were then brought forward, singly or in groups, 
as the people desired, or the directors of the spectacle chose. 
Sometimes the intended prey was placed on an elevated 
platform to be more conspicuous ; at another time he was 
tied up to posts to be more helpless. A favourite sport 
was to bundle up a female victim in a net, and expose her 
to be rolled, tossed, or gored by wild cattle.* One en- 
counter with a single wild beast often finished the martyr's 
course; while occasionally three or four were successively 
let loose, without their inflicting a mortal wound. The 
confessor was then either remanded to prison for further 
torments, or taken back to the spoliatorium, where the 
gladiator's apprentices amused themselves with despatch- 
ing him. 

But we must content ourselves with following the last 
steps of our youthful hero, Pancratius. As he was passing 
through the corridor that led to the amphitheatre, he saw 
Sebastian standing on one side, with a lady closely en- 
wrapped in her mantle, and veiled. He at once recognised 
her, stopt before her, knelt, and taking her hand, affection- 



* See the Acts of the Martyrs of Lyons, Ruinart, vol. i. p. 152 
(where will be found the account of the martyrdom of a youth of 
fifteen), and those of St. Perpetua and Felicitas, p. 221. 



CH. XXIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMES. 277 

ately kissed it. " Bless me, dear mother/' he said, " in 
this your promised hour." 

" See, my child, the heavens," she replied, " and look 
up thither, where Christ with His saints expecteth thee. 
Fight the good fight, for thy soul's sake, and show thy- 
self faithful and stedfast in thy Saviour's love.* Ee- 
member him too whose precious relic thou hearest round 
thy neck." 

" Its price shall be doubled in thine eyes, my sweet 
mother, ere many hours are over." 

" On, on, and let us have none of this fooling," ex- 
claimed the lanista, adding a stroke of his cane. 

Lucina retreated ; while Sebastian pressed the hand of 
her son, and whispered in his ear, " Courage, dearest boy; 
may G od bless you ! I shall be close behind the emperor ; 
give me a last look there, and — your blessing." 

" Ha ! ha ! ha !" broke out a fiendish tone close behind 
him. Was it a demon's laugh? He looked behind, and 
caught only a glimpse of a fluttering, cloak rounding - a 
pillar. Who could it be ? He guessed not. It was Ful- 
vius, who in those words had got the last link in a chain of 
evidence, that he had long been weaving — that Sebastian 
was certainly a Christian. 

Pancratius soon stood in the midst of the arena, the 
last of the faithful band. He had been reserved, in hopes 
that the sight of others' sufferings might shake his con- 
stancy ; but the effect had been the reverse. He took his 
stand where he was placed, and his yet delicate frame con- 
trasted with the swarthy and brawny limbs of the execu- 
tioners who surrounded him. They now left him alone ; and 
we cannot better describe him than Eusebius, an eye-wit- 
ness, does a youth a few years older : 

" You might have seen a tender youth, who had not yet 
entered his twentieth year, standing without fetters, with 
his hands stretched forth in the form of a cross, and pray- 
ing to God most attentively, with a fixed and untrembling 
heart ; not retiring from the place where he first stood, nor 
swerving the least, while bears and leopards, breathing 

* See the Acts of St. Eelicitas and her seven sons, Ruinart, vol. 
i. p. 55. 



278 fabiola; or, 

fury and death in their very snort, were just rushing on to 
tear his limbs in pieces. And yet, I know not how, their 
jaws seemed seized and closed by some divine, and myste- 
rious power, and they drew altogether back."* 

Such was the attitude, and such the privilege of our 
heroic youth. The mob were frantic, as thev saw one wild 
beast after another careering madly round him, roaring, 
and lashing its sides with its tail, while he seemed placed 
m a charmed circle, which they could not approach. A 
furious bull, let loose upon him, dashed madly forward, 
with his neck bent down, then stopped suddenly, as though 
he had struck his head against a wall, pawed the ground, 
and scattered the dust around him, bellowing fiercely. 

"Provoke him, thou coward !" roared out, still louder, 
the enraged emperor. 

Pancratius awoke as from a trance, and waving his 
arms, ran towards his enemy ;f but the savage brute, as if 
a lion had been rushing on him, turned round, and ran 
away towards the entrance, where meeting his keeper, he 
tossed him high into the air. All were disconcerted except 
the brave youth, who had resumed his attitude of prayer ; 
when one of the crowd shouted out : " He has a charm 
round his neck; he is a sorcerer!" The whole multitude 
re-echoed the cry, till the emperor, having commanded 
silence, called out to him, " Take that amulet from thy 
neck, and cast it from thee, or it shall be done more roughly 
for thee." 

" Sire," replied the youth, with a musical voice, that 
rang sweetly through the hushed amphitheatre, " it is no 
charm that I wear, but a memorial of my father, who in 
this very place made gloriously the same confession which 
I now humbly make; I am a Christian; and for love of Je- 
sus Christ, God and man, I gladly give my lii'e. Do not 
take from me this only legacy, which I have bequeathed, 
richer than I received it, to another. Try once more; it 
was a panther which gave him his crown; perhaps it will 
bestow the same on me." 

* Hist. Eccles. lib. viii. c. 7. 

■}■ Euseb. ibid. See also St, Ignatius 's letter to the Romans, in 
his Acts, ap. Ruinart, vol. i. p. 40. 



CH. XXIII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 279 

For an instant there was dead silence ; the multitude 
seemed softened, won. The graceful form of the gallant 
youth, his now inspired countenance, the thrilling- music of 
his voice, the intrepidity of his speech, and his generous 
self-devotion to his cause, had wrought upon that cowardly 
herd. Pancratius felt it, and his heart quailed before their 
mercy more than before their rag-e ; he had promised him- 
self heaven that day; was he to be disappointed? Tears 
started into his eyes, as stretching- forth his arms once 
more in the form of a cross, he called aloud, in a tone that 
again vibrated throug-h every heart: 

"To-day; oh yes, to-day, most blessed Lord, is the 
appointed day of Thy coming - . Tarry not longer; enough 
has Thy power been shown in me to them that believe not 
in Thee; show now Thy mercy to me who in Thee believe !" 

" The panther ! ; ' shouted out a voice. "The panther!" 
responded twenty. " The panther !" thundered forth a 
hundred thousand, in a chorus like the roaring of an ava- 
lanche.* A cage started up, as if by magic, from the 
midst of the sand, and as it rose, its side fell down, and 
freed the captive of the desert. f With one graceful bound 
the elegant savage gained its liberty ; and, though enraged 
by darkness, confinement, and hunger, it seemed almost 
playful, as it leaped and turned about, frisked and gam- 
bolled noiselessly on the sand. At last it caught sight of 
its prey. All its feline cunning and cruelty seemed to 
return, and to conspire together in animating the cautious 
and treacherous movements of its velvet-clothed frame. 
The whole amphitheatre was as silent as if it had been a 
hermit's dell, while every eye was intent, watching the 
stealthy approaches of the sleek brute to its victim. Pan- 
cratius was still standing- in the same place, facing the 
emperor, apparently so absorbed in higher thoughts, as not 
to heed the movements of his enemy. The panther had 
stolen round him, as if disdaining to attack him except in 
front. Crouching upon its breast, slowly advancing one 
paw before another, it had gained its measured distance; 

* The amphitheatre could contain 150,000. 

f This was an ordinary device. The underground constructions 
for its practice have been found in the Coliseum. 



280 

and there it lay for some moments of breathless suspense 
A deep snarling 1 growl, an elastic spring through the air, 
and it was seen gathered up like a leech, with its hind feet 
on the chest, and its fangs and fore claws on the throat of 
the martyr. 

He stood erect for a moment, brought his right hand 
to his mouth, and looking up at Sebastian with a smile, 
.directed to him, by a graceful wave of his arm, the last 
•salutation of his lips — and fell. The arteries of the neck 
■had been severed, and the slumber of martyrdom at once 
settled on his eyelids. His blood softened, brightened, en- 
riched, and blended inseparably with, that of his father, 
which Lucina had hung about his neck. The mother's 
sacrifice had been accepted.* 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

THE CHRISTIAN SOLDIER. 

The body of the young martyr was deposited in peace on 
the Aurelian way, in the cemetery which soon bore his 
name, and gave it, as we have before observed, to the neigh- 
bouring gate. In times of peace, a basilica was raised over 
his tomb, and yet stands to perpetuate his honour. 

The persecution now increased its fury, and multiplied 
its daily victims. Many whose names have appeared in 
-our pages, especially the community of Chromatius's villa, 
rapidly fell. The first was Zoe, whose dumbness Sebastian 
had cured. She was surprised by a heathen rabble, praying 
at St. Peter's tomb, and was hurried to trial, and hung with 
her head over a smoky fire, till she died. Her husband, 
with three others of the same party, was taken, repeatedly 
tortured, and beheaded. Tranquillinus, the father of Mar- 

* The martyr Saturus, torn by a leopard, and about to die, ad- 
dressed the soldier Pudens, not yet a Christian, in words of exhor- 
tation; then asked him for the ring on his finder, dipped it in his 
own blood, and gave it back, " leaving him the inheritance of that' 
pledge, and the memorial of his blood." Ap. Ruinart, vol. i, p. 223. 



CH. XXIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 281 

cus and Marcellianus, jealous of Zoe's crown, prayed openly 
at St. Paul's tomb; lie was taken and summarily stoned to 
death. His twin sons suffered also a cruel death. The 
treachery of Torquatus, by his describing- his former com- 
panions, especially the gallant Tiburtius, who was now be- 
headed,* greatly facilitated this wholesale destruction. 

Sebastian moved in the midst of this slaughter, not like 
a builder who saw his work destroyed by a tempest, nor 
a shepherd who beheld his flock borne off by marauders. 
He felt as a general on the battle-field, who looked only 
to the victory; counting* every one as glorious who gave 
his life in its purchase, and as ready to give his own 
should it prove to be the required price. Every friend 
that fell before him was a bond less to earth, and a link 
more to heaven; a care less below, a claim more above. 
He sometimes sat lonely, or paused silently, on the spots 
where he had conversed with Pancratius, recalling to mind 
the buoyant cheerfulness, the graceful thoughts, and the 
unconscious virtue of the amiable and comely youth. But 
he never felt as if they were more separated, than when he 
sent him on his expedition to Campania. He had redeemed 
his pledge to him ; and now it was soon to be his own turn. 
He knew it well ; he felt the grace of martyrdom swelling 
in his breast, and in tranquil certainty he awaited its hour. 
His preparation was simple : whatever he had of value he 
distributed to the poor; and he settled his property, by 
sale, beyond the reach of confiscation. 

Fulvius had picked up his fair share of Christian spoils ; 
but, on the whole, he had been disappointed. He had not 
been obliged to ask for assistance from the emperor, whose 
presence he avoided ; but he had put nothing by, he was 
not getting rich. Every evening he had to bear the re- 
proachful and scornful interrogatory of Eurotas on the 
day's success. Now, however, he told his stern master — 
for such he had become — that he was going- to strike at 
higher game, the emperor's favourite officer, who must 
have made a large fortune in the service. 

He had not long to wait for his opportunity. On the 

* He is commemorated on the 11th of August, with his father 
Chromatius, as has been already observed. 



282 FABIOLA; OR, 

9th of January, a court was held, attended, of course, by 
all aspirants for favours, or fearers of imperial wrath. Ful- 
vius was there, and, as usual, met with a cold reception. 
But after hearing- silently the muttered curses of the royal 
brute, he boldly advanced, dropped on one knee, and thus 
addressed him : 

" Sire, your divinity has often reproached me with 
having- made, by my discoveries, but a poor return for 
your gracious countenance and liberal subsidies. But 
now I have found out the foulest of plots, and the basest 
of ingratitudes, in immediate contact with your divine 
person." 

" What dost thou mean, booby?" asked impatiently 
the tyrant. " Speak at once, or I'll have the words pulled 
out of thy throat by an iron hook." 

Fulvius rose, and directing- his hand, in accompani- 
ment to his words, said with a bitter blandness of tone : 
" Sebastian is a Christian." 

The emperor started from his throne in fury. 

" Thou liest, villain ! Thou shalt prove thy words, or 
thou shalt die such a piecemeal death, as no Christian dog* 
ever endured." 

" I have sufficient proof recorded here," he replied, pro- 
ducing a parchment, and offering it, kneeling. 

The emperor was about to make an angry answer, 
when, to his utter amazement, Sebastian, with unruffled 
looks and noble mien, stood before him, and in the calmest 
accents said : 

" My liege, I spare you all trouble of proof. I am, a 
Christian, and I glory in the name." 

As Maximian, a rude though clever soldier, without 
education, could hardly when calm express himself in de- 
cent Latin, when he was in a passion his language was 
composed, of broken sentences, mingled with every vulgar 
and coarse epithet. In this state he was now; and he 
poured out on Sebastian a torrent of abuse, in which he 
reproached him with every crime, and called him by every 
opprobrious name, within his well-stocked repertory of vi- 
tuperation. The two crimes, however, on which he rung 
his loudest changes were, ingratitude and treachery. He 



CH. XXIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 283 

had nursed, he said, a viper in his bosom, a scorpion, an 
evil demon ; and he only wondered he was still alive. 

The Christian officer stood the volley, as intrepidly as 
ever he had borne the enemy's assault, on the field of 
battle. 

" Listen to me, my royal master," he replied, " per- 
haps for the last time. I have said I am a Christian ; and 
in this you have had the best pledge of your security." 

" How do you mean, ungrateful man ?" 

" Thus, noble emperor : that if you want a body-guard 
around you of men who will spill their last drop of life's- 
blood for you, go to the prison and take the Christians 
from the stocks on the floor, and from the fetter-rings on 
the walls ; send to the courts and bear away the mutilated 
confessors from the rack and the gTidiron; issue orders to 
the amphitheatres, and snatch the mangled half that lives, 
from the jaws of tigers ; restore them to such shape as yet 
they are capable of, put weapons into their hands, and 
place them around you; and in this maimed and ill- 
favoured host there will be more fidelity, more loyalty, 
more daring - for you, than in all your Dacian and Pan- 
nonian legions. You have taken half their blood from 
them, and they will give you willingly the other half." 

" Folly and madness !" returned the sneering - savage. 
" I would sooner surround myself with wolves than with 
Christians. Your treachery proves enough for me." 

" And what would have prevented me at any time from 
acting the traitor, if I had been one ? Have I not had 
access to your royal person by night as by day; and have 
I proved a traitor.'' No, emperor, none has ever been more 
faithful than I to you. But I have another, and a hig'her 
Lord to serve ; one who will judge us both ; and His laws 
I must obey rather than yours." 

" And why have you, like a coward, concealed your 
religion? To escape, perhaps, the bitter death you have 
deserved !" 

" No, sire ; no more coward than traitor. No one 
better than yourself knows that I am neither. So long as 
I could do any good to my brethren, I refused not to live 
amidst their carnage and my afflictions. But hope had 



io* fabiola; or, 

at last died within me ; and I thank Fulvius with all my 
heart, for having, hy his accusation, spared me the em- 
barrassment of choice between seeking- death or enduring 
life." 

" I will decide that point for you. Death is your award ; 
and a slow lingering one it shall be. But," he added, in a 
lower tone, as if speaking to himself, " this must not get 
out. All must be done quietly at home, or treachery will 
spread. Here, Quadratus, take your Christian tribune 
under arrest. Do you hear, dolt? Why do you not 
move : 

" Because I too am a Christian !" 

Another burst of fury, another storm of vile language, 
which ended in the stout centurion's being ordered at once 
to execution. But Sebastian was to be differently dealt 
with. 

" Order Hyphax to come hither," roared the tyrant. 
In a few minutes, a tall, balf-naked Numidian made his 
appearance. A bow of immense length, a g - aily-painted 
quiver full of arrows, and a short broad-sword, were at 
once the ornaments and the weapons of the captain of the 
African archers. He stood erect before the emperor, like 
a handsome bronze statue, with bright enamelled eyes. 

'• Hyphax, I have a job for you to-morrow morning. 
It must be well done," said the emperor. 

" Perfectly, sire," replied the dusky chief, with a grin 
which showed another set of enamels in his face. 

" You see the captain Sebastian ?" The negro bowed 
assent. " He turns out to be a Christian !" 

If Hvphax had been on his native soil, and had trod- 
den suddenly on a hooded asp or a scorpion's nest, he 
could not have started more. The thought of being so 
near a Christian, — to him who worshipped every abomi- 
nation, believed every absurdity, practised every lewdness, 
committed any atrocity! 

Maxiinian" proceeded, and Hyphax kept time to every 
member of his sentences by a nod, and what he meant to 
be a smile ; — it was hardly an earthly one. 

" You will take Sebastian to your quarters; and early 
to-morrow morning, — not this evening, mind, for I know 



CH. XXV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 285 

that by this time of day you are all drunk, — but to-morrow 
morning, when your hands are steady, you will tie him 
to a tree in the grove of Adonis, and you will slowly shoot 
him to death. Slowly, mind; none of your fine shots 
straight through the heart or the brain, but plenty of 
arrows, till he die exhausted by pain and loss of blood. 
Do you understand me ? Then take him off at once. And 
mind, silence ; or else — " 



CHAPTEK XXV. 

THE RESCUE. 

In spite of every attempt at concealment, the news was 
soon spread among all connected with the court, that Se- 
bastian had been discovered to be a Christian, and was to 
be shot to death on the morrow. But on none did the 
double intelligence make such an impression as on Fabiola. 

Sebastian a Christian! she said to herself; the noblest, 
purest, wisest of Rome's nobility a member of that vile, 
stupid sect 1 Impossible ! Yet, the fact seems certain. 

Have I, then, been deceived ? Was he not that which 
he seemed ? Was he a mean impostor, who affected vir- 
tue, but was secretly a libertine '! Impossible, too ! Yes, 
this was indeed impossible ! She had certain proofs of it. 
He knew that he might have had her hand and fortune, 
for the asking- ; and he had acted most generously, and 
most delicately towards her. He was what he seemed, 
that she was sure — not gilded, but gold. 

Then how account for this phenomenon, of a Christian 
being all that was good, virtuous, amiable ? 

One solution never occurred to Fabiola's mind, that he 
was all this, because he was a Christian. She only saw 
the problem in another form ; how coidd he be all that he 
was, in spite of being a Christian? 

She turned it variously in her mind, in vain. Then it 
came to her thought thus. Perhaps, after all, good old 
Chromatius was right, and Christianity may not be what 
I have fancied ; and. I ought to have inquired more about it. 



286 fabiola; or, 

I am sure Sebastian never did the horrible things imputed 
to Christians. Yet every body charges them with them. 

Might there not be a more refined form of this religion, 
and a more grovelling one ; just as she knew there was in 
her own sect, Epicureanism ? one coarse, material, wallow- 
ing in the very mire of sensualism ; the other refined, 
sceptical, and reflective. Sebastian would belong to the 
higher class, and despise and loathe the superstitions and 
vices of the commoner Christians. Such a hypothesis 
might be tenable ; but it was hard to reconcile to her in- 
tellect, how a man like that noble soldier could, any way, 
have belonged to that hated race. And yet he was ready 
to die for their faith ! As to Zoe and the others, she had 
heard nothing ; for she had only returned the day before 
from a journey made into Campania, to arrang-e her fa- 
ther's affairs. 

What a pity, she thought, that she had not talked 
more to Sebastian on such subjects! But it Avas now 
too late ; to-morrow morning he would be no more. This 
second thought came with the sharp pang of a shaft shot 
into her heart. She felt as if she personally were about 
to suffer a loss, as if Sebastian's fate were going to fall 
on some one closely bound to her, by some secret and 
mysterious tie. 

Her thoughts grew darker and sadder, as she dwelt on 
these ideas, amidst the deepening gloom. She was sud- 
denly disturbed by the entrance of a slave with a light. 
It was Afra, the black servant, who came to prepare her 
mistress's evening repast, which she wished to take alone. 
While busy with her arrangements, she said, " Have you 
heard the news, madam ?" 
" What news ?" 

" Only that Sebastian is going to be shot with arrows 
to-morrow morning. What a pity ; he was such a hand- 
some youth !" 

" Be silent, Afra ; unless you have some information 
to give me on the subject." 

" Oh, of course, my mistress ; and my information is 
indeed very astonishing-. Do you know that he turns out 
to be one of those wretched Christians ?" 



CH. XXV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 287 

" Hold your peace, I pray you ; and do not prate any 
more about what you do not understand." 

" Certainly not, if you so wish it ; I suppose his fate 
is quite a matter of indifference to you, madam. It cer- 
tainly is to me. He won't he the first officer that my 
countrymen have shot. Many they have killed, and some 
they have saved. But of course that was all chance." 

There was a significance in her words and tones, which 
did not escape the quick ear and mind of Fabiola. She 
looked up, for the first time, and fixed her eyes searching-ly 
on her maid's swarthy face. There was no emotion in it ; 
she was placing - a flag'on of wine upon the table, just as if 
she had not spoken. At length the lady said to her : 

" Afra, what do you mean ?" 

" Oh, nothing - , nothing - . What can a poor slave know ? 
Still more, what can she do ?" 

" Come, come, you meant, by your words, something 
that I must know." 

The slave came round the table, close to the couch 
on which Fabiola rested, looked behind her, and around 
her, then whispered, " Do you want Sebastian's life pre- 
served ?" 

Fabiola almost leapt up, as she replied, " Certainly." 

The servant put her finger to her lip, to enforce silence, 
.and said, "It will cost dear." 

" Name your price." 

" A hundred sestertia,* and my liberty." 

" I accept your terms j but what is my security for 
them ?" 

" They shall be binding only, if twenty-four hours after 
the execution, he is still alive." 

" Agreed ; and what is yours ?" 

" Your word, lady." 

" Go, Afra, lose not a moment." 

" There is no hurry," quietly replied the slave, as she 
completed, unflurried, the preparations for supper. 

She then proceeded at once to the palace, and to the 
Mauritanian quarters, and went in directly to the com- 
mander. 

* About 800Z. 



288 fabiola; or, 

" What dost thou want, Jubala," he said, " at this 
hour ? There is no festival to-night." 

" I know, Hyphax ; but I have important business with 
thee." 

"What is it about?" 

" About thee, about myself, and about thy prisoner." 

" Look at Mm there," said the barbarian, pointing 
across the court, which his door commanded. " You would 
not think that he is going - to be shot to-morrow. See 
how soundly he sleeps. He could not do so better, if he 
were going to be married instead." 

" As thou and I, Hyphax, intend to be the next day." 

" Come, not quite so fast ; there are certain conditions 
to be fulfilled first." 

"Well, what are they?" 

" First, thy manumission. I cannot marry a slave." 

" That is secured." 

" Secondly, a dowry, a good dowry, mind ; for I never 
wanted money more than now." 

" That is safe too. How much dost thou expect?" 

" Certainly not less than three hundred pounds." * 

" I bring thee six hundred." 

" Excellent ! where didst thou get all this cash ? 
Whom hast thou robbed ? whom hast thou poisoned, my 
admirable priestess ? Why wait till after to-morrow I 
Let it be to-morrow, to-night, if it please thee." 

" Be quiet now, Hyphax ; the money is all lawful 
gain ; but it has its conditions, too. I said I came to 
speak about the prisoner also." 

" Well, what has he to do with our approaching nup- 
tials?" 

" A great deal." 

"What now?" 

" He must not die." 

The captain looked at her with a mixture of fury and 
stupidity. He seemed on the point of laying violent hands 
on her ; but she stood intrepid and unmoved before him, 
and seemed to command him by the strong fascination of 

* We give equivalents in English money, as more intelligible. 



CH. XXV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 289 

her eye, as one of the serpents of their native land might 
do a vulture. 

" Art mad?" he at last exclaimed; "thou mightest as 
well at once ask for my head. If thou hadst seen the 
emperor's face, when he issued his orders, thou woiddst 
have known he will have no trifling' with him here." 

" Pshaw ! pshaw ! man ; of course the prisoner will 
appear dead, and will be reported as dead." 

" And if he finally recover ?" 

" His fellow-Christians will take care to keep him out 
of the way." 

" Didst thou say twenty-four hours alive ? I wish 
thou hadst made it twelve." 

" Well, hut I know that thoii canst calculate close. 
Let him die in the twenty-fifth hour, for what I care." 

" It is impossible, Jubala, impossible ; he is too im- 
portant a person." 

" Very well, then ; there is an end to our bargain. 
The money is given only on tLis condition. Six hundred 
pounds thrown away !" And she turned off to go. 

"Stay, stay," said Hyphax, eagerly; the demon of 
covetousness coming uppermost. " Let us see. Why, 
my fellows will consume half the money, in bribes and 
feasting." 

" Well, I have two hundred more in reserve for that." 

" Sayest thou so, my princess, my sorceress, my charm- 
ing' demon ? But that will be too much for my scoundrels. 
Vv e will give them half, and add the other half — to our 
marriage-settlements, shan't Ave?" 

" As it pleases thee, provided the thing is clone ac- 
cording- to my proposal." 

" It is a bargain, then. He shall live twenty-four 
hours ; and after that, we will have a glorious wedding." 

Sebastian, in the meantime, was unconscious of these 
amiable negotiations for his safety ; for, like Peter between 
two g-uards, he was slumbering- soundly by the wall of the 
court. Fatigiied with his day's work, he had enjoyed the 
rare advantage of retiring early to rest ; and the marble 
pavement was a good enough soldier's bed. But after a 
few hours' repose, he awoke refreshed ; and now that all 

u 



290 

Yv-as hushed, he silently rose, and with outstretched arms, 
gave himself up to prayer. 

The martyr's prayer is not a preparation for death ; for 
his is a death that needs no preparation. The soldier who 
suddenly declares himself a Christian, hends down his head, 
and mingles his hlood with that of the confessor, whom he 
had come to execute ; or the friend, of unknown name, who 
salutes the martyr going- to death, is seized, and made to. 
hear him willing company,* is as prepared for martyrdom, 
as he who has passed months in prison engaged in prayer. 
It is not a cry, therefore, for the forgiveness of past sin ; 
for there is a consciousness of that perfect love, which send- 
eth out fear, an inward assurance of that highest grace, 
which is incompatible with sin. 

Nor in Sebastian was it a prayer for courage or strength; 
for the opposite feeling, which could suggest it, was un- 
known to him. It never entered into his mind to doubt, 
that as he bad faced death intrepidly for his earthly sove- 
reign on the battle-field, so he should meet it joyfully for 
his heavenly Lord, in any place. 

His prayer, then, till morning, was a gladsome hymn 
of glory and honour to the King- of kings, a joining with 
the seraph's glowing eyes, and ever-shaking wings, in rest- 
less homage. 

Then when the stars in the bright heavens caught his 
eyes, he challeng-ed them as wakeful sentinels like himself, 
to exchange the watchword of Divine praises ; and as the 
night-wind rustled in the leafless trees of the neighbour- 
ing court of Adonis, he bade its wayward music compose 
itself, and its rude harping upon the vibrating boughs form 
softer hymns, — the only ones that earth could utter in its 
winter night-hours. 

Now burst on him the thrilling thought that the morn- 
ing hour approached, for the cock had crowed; and he 
would soon hear those branches murmuring over him to 
the sharp whistle of flying arrows, unerring in their aim. 
And he offered himself gladly to their sharp tongues, hiss- 
ing as the serpent's, to drink his blood. He offered him- 

* Called thence St. Adauctus. 



CII. XXV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 291 

self as an oblation for God's honour, and for the appeasing 
of His v/ rath. He offered himself particularly for the af- 
flicted Church, and prayed that his death might mitigate 
her sufferings. 

And then his thoughts rose higher, from the earthly to 
the celestial Church; soaring like the eagle from the high- 
est pinnacle of the mountain-peak, towards the sun. Clouds 
have rolled away, and the blue embroidered veil of morn- 
ing is rent in twain, like the sanctuary's, and he sees cpiite 
into its revealed depths ; far, far inwards, beyond senates 
of saints and leg'ions of angels, to what Stephen saw of in- 
most and intensest glory. And now his hymn was silent; 
harmonies came to him, too sweet and perfect to brook the 
jarring of a terrestrial voice; they came to him, requiring 1 
no return; for they brought heaven into his soul; and what 
could he give back ? It was as a fountain of purest re- 
freshment, more like gushing light than water, flowing* 
from the foot of the Lamb, and poured into his heart, 
which could only be passive, and receive the gift. Yet in 
its sparkling bounds, as it rippled along" towards him, he 
could see the countenance now of one, and then of another 
of the happy friends who had gone before him ; as if they 
were drinking-, and bathing, and disporting-, and plunging, 
and dissolving themselves in those living waters. 

His countenance was glowing as with the very reflec- 
tion of the vision, and the morning dawn just brightening- 
(oh, what a dawn that is !), caught his face as he stood up, 
with his arms in a cross, opposite the east ; so that when 
Hyphax opened his door and saw him, he could have crept 
across the court and worshipped him on his face. 

Sebastian awoke as from a trance; and the chink of 
sesterces sounded in the mental ears of Hyphax; so he 
set scientifically about earning them. He picked out of his 
troop of a hundred, five marksmen, who could split a flying- 
arrow with a fleeter one, called them into his room, told 
them their reward, concealing his own share, and arranged 
how the execution was to be managed. As to the body, 
Christians had already secretly offered a large additional 
sum for its delivery, and two slaves were to wait outside 



292 FABIOLA ; OR, 

to receive it. Among' liis own followers lie could fully 
depend on secrecy. 

Sebastian was conducted into the neighbouring court 
of the palace, which separated the quarters of these African 
archers from his own dwelling. It was planted with rows 
of trees, and consecrated to Adonis. He Avalked cheerfully 
in the midst of his executioners, followed by the whole 
band, who were alone allowed to be spectators, as they 
would have been of an ordinary exhibition of good archery. 
The officer was stripped and bound to a tree, while the 
chosen five took their stand opposite, cool and collected. 
It was at best a desolate sort of death. Not a friend, not 
a sympathiser near; not one fellow-Christian to bear his 
farewell to the faithful, or to record for them his last 
accents, and the constancy of his end. To stand in the 
middle of the crowded amphitheatre, with a hundred thou- 
sand witnesses of Christian constancy, to see the encou- 
raging looks of many, and hear the whispered blessings 
of a few loving acquaintances, had something cheering - , and 
almost inspiring in it; it lent at least the feeble aid of human 
emotions, to the more powerful sustainment of grace. The 
very shout of an insulting multitude put a strain upon 
natural courage, as the hunter's cry only nerves the stag 
at bay. But this dead and silent scene, at dawn of day, 
shut up in the court of a house ; this being, with most un- 
feeling indifference tied up, like a truss of hay, or a stuffed 
figure, to be coolly aimed at, according to the tyrant's 
orders ; this being alone in the midst of a horde of swarthy 
savages, whose very language was strange, uncouth, and 
unintelligible; but who were no doubt uttering their rude 
jokes, and laughing, as men do before a match or a game, 
which they are going to enjoy; all this had more the ap- 
pearance of a piece of cruelty, about to be acted in a gloomy 
forest by banditti, than open and glorious confession of 
Christ's name: it looked and felt more like assassination 
than martyrdom. 

But Sebastian cared not for all this. Angels looked over 
the wall upon him; and the rising- sun, which dazzled his 
eyes, but made him a clearer mark for his bowmen, shone not 



CH. XXV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 293 

more brightly on him, than did the countenance of the only 
Witness he cared to have of suffering - endured for His sake. 

The first Moor drew his bow-string- to his ear, and an 
arrow trembled in the flesh of Sebastian. Each chosen 
marksman followed in turn ; and shouts of applause accom- 
panied each hit, so cleverly approaching-, yet avoiding - , 
according to the imperial order, every vital part. And so 
the game went on ; every body laughing, and brawling, 
and jeering - , and enjoying it, without a particle of feeling - 
for the now drooping frame, painted with blood : * all in 
sport, except the martyr, to whom all was sober earnest 
— each sharp pang, the enduring - smart, the exhaustion, 
the weariness, the knotty bonds, the constrained attitude ! 
Oh ! but earnest too was the stedfast heart, the untiring- 
spirit, the unwavering - faith, the unruffled patience, the 
unsated love of suffering for his Lord. Earnest was the 
prayer, earnest the gaze of the eye on heaven, earnest 
the listening of the ear for the welcoming strain of the 
heavenly porters, as they should open the gate. 

It was indeed a dreary death; yet this was not the 
worst. After all, death came not; the golden gates re- 
mained unbarred; the martyr in heart, still reserved for 
greater g'lory even upon earth, found himself, not suddenly 
translated from death to life, but sunk into unconscious- 
ness in the lap of angels. His tormentors saw when they 
had reached their intended measure; they cut the cords 
that bound him ; and Sebastian fell exhausted, and to all 
appearance dead, upon the carpet of blood which he had 
spread for himself on the pavement. Did he lie, like a 
noble warrior, as he now appears in marble under his altar, 
in his own dear church? We at least cannot imagine him 
as more beautiful. And not only that church do we love, 
but that ancient chapel which stands in the midst of the 
ruined Palatine, to mark the spot on which he fell.f 

* " Mcmbraque picta cruore novo." Prud. irepi <tt€0. iii. 29. 

f The reader, when visiting the Crystal Palace, will find in the 
Roman Court an excellent model of the Roman Forum. On the 
raised mound of the Palatine hill, between the arches of Titus and 
Constantine, he will see a chapel of fair dimensions standing alone. 
It is the one to which we allude. It has been lately repaired by the 
Barberini family. 



2J1 FASIOLA: OR, 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE REVIVAL. 

Night was far advanced, when the black slave, having' com- 
pleted her marriage-settlement, quite to her own satisfac- 
tion, was returning to her mistress's house. It was, indeed, 
a cold wintry night, so she was well wrapped up, and in no 
humour to be disturbed. But it was a lovely night, and 
the moon seemed to be stroking, with a silvery hand, the 
downy robe of the meta sudans* She paused beside it; 
and, after a silence of some moments, broke out into a loud 
laugh, as if some ridiculous recollection connected itself 
in her mind with that beautiful object. She was turning 
round to proceed on her way, when she felt herself roughly 
seized by the arm. 

" If you had not laughed," said her captor, bitterly, 
" I should not have recognised you. But that hyena 
laugh of yours is unmistakable. Listen, the wild beasts, 
your African cousins, are answering it from the amphi- 
theatre. What was it about, pray ?" 

" About you." 

" How about me ?" 

" I was thinking of our last interview in this place, and 
what a fool you made of yourself." 

" How kind of you, Afra, to be thinking of me, espe- 
cially as I was not just then thinking of you, but of your 
countrymen in those cells." 

" Cease your impertinence, and call people by their 
proper names. I am not Afra the slave any longer, at 
least I shall not be so in a few hours; but Jubala, the wife 
of Hvphax, commander of the Mauritanian archers." 

" A very respectable man, no doubt, if he could speak 
any language besides his gibberish ; but these few hours 
of interval may suffice for the transaction of our business. 
You made a mistake, methinks, in what you said just now. 
It was you, was it not, that made a fool of me at our last 

- * The fountain before described. 



CIT. XXVI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 295 

meeting- ? What lias become of your fair promises, and of 
my fairer gold, which were exchanged on that occasion ''. 
Mine, I know, proved sterling ; yours, I fear, turned out 
but dust." 

" No doubt; for so says a proverb in my language : 
' the dust on the wise man's skirts is better than the gold 
in the fool's girdle.' But let us come to the point; did 
you really ever believe in the power of my charms and 
philtres ?" 

" To be sure I did ; do you mean they were all im- 
posture ?" 

" Not quite all ; you see we have got rid of Fabius, 
and the daughter is in possession of the fortune. That 
was a preliminary step of absolute necessity." 

" What ! do you mean that your incantations removed 
the father ?" asked Corvinus amazed, and shrinking from 
her. It was only a sudden bright thought of Afra's, so 
she pushed her advantage, saying : 

"To be sure; what else? It is easy thus to get rid 
of any one that is too much in the way." 

" Good night, good night," he replied in great fear. 

" Stay a moment," she answered, somewhat propi- 
tiated : " Corvinus, I gave you two pieces of advice worth 
all your g'old that night. One you have acted against; 
the other vou have not followed." 

"How?" 

" Did I not tell you not to hunt the Christians, but to 
catch them in your toils I Fulvius has done the second, 
and has gained something. You have done the first, and 
what have you earned ■" 

" Nothing but rage, confusion, and stripes." 

" Then I was a g - ood counsellor in the one advice ; fol- 
low me in the second." 

" What was it ?" 

" When you had become rich enough by Christian spoil, 
to offer yourself, with your wealth, to Fabiola. She has 
till now coldly rejected every oiler ; but I have observed 
one thing carefully. Not a single suit has been accom- 
panied by riches. Every spendthrift has sought her for- 
tune to repair his own ; depend upon it, he that wins the 



296 tv_i;igla; c~, 

prize must come on the principle that two and two make 
four. Do you understand me ?" 

" Too well, for where are my two to come from ?" 

" Listen to me, Corvinus, for this is our last interview ; 
and I rather like you, as a hearty, unscrupulous, relentless, 
and unfeeling- good hater." She drew him nearer and 
whispered : " I know from Eurotas, out of whom I can 
wheedle any thing, that Fulvius has some splendid Chris- 
tian prizes in view, one especially. Come this way into 
the shadow, and I will tell you how surely you may'inter- 
cept his treasure. Leave to him the cool murder that will be 
necessary, for it may be troublesome ; but step in between 
him and the spoil. He would do it to you any day." 

She spoke to him for some minutes in a low and 
earnest tone ; and at the end, he broke out into the loud 
exclamation, " Excellent !" What a word in such a 
mouth ! 

She checked him by a pull, and pointing to the build- 
ing opposite, exclaimed : " Hush ! look there !" 

How are the tables turned ; or, rather, how has the 
world gone round in a brief space ! The last time these 
two wicked beings were on the same spot, plotting bane to 
others, the window above was occupied by two virtuous 
youths, who, like two spirits of good, were intent on un- 
ravelling' their web of mischief, and countermining - their 
dark approaches. They are g - one thence, the one sleeping - 
in his tomb, the other slumbering - on the eve of execution. 
Death looks to us like a holy power, seeing - how much he 

Sefers taking to his society the g'ood, rather than the evil, 
e snatches away the flower, and leaves the weed its 
poisonous life, till it drops into mature decay. 

But at the moment that they looked up, the window 
was occupied by two other persons. 

u That is Fulvius," said Corvinus, " who just came to 
the window." 

" And the other is his evil demon, Eurotas," added the 
slave. They both watched and listened from their dark 
nook. 

Fulvius came again, at that moment, to the window 
with a sword in his hand, carefully turning and examining 



CH. XXVI.] THE CHURCH OV THE CATACOMBS. 297 

the hilt in the bright moonlight. He flung it down at 
last, exclaiming with, an oath, " It is only brass, after all." 

Eurotas came with, to all appearance, a rich officer's 
belt, and examined it carefully. " A 11 false stones ! Why 
I declare the whole of the effects are not worth fifty pounds. 
You have made but a poor job of this, Fulvius." 

" Always reproaching me, Eurotas. And yet this 
miserable gain has cost me the life of one of the emperor's 
most favourite officers." 

" And no thanks probably from your master for it." 
Eurotas was right. 

Next morning, the slaves who received the body of 
Sebastian were surprised, by a swarthy female figure pass- 
ing by them, and whispering to them, " He is still alive." 

Instead, therefore, of carrying him out for burial, they 
bore him to the apartment of Irene. The early hour of 
the morning, and the emperor's having gone, the evening 
before, to his favourite Lateran palace, facilitated this 
movement. Instantly Dionysius was sent for, and he 
pronounced every wound curable; not one arrow having 
touched a vital organ. But loss of blood had taken place 
to such a fearful extent, that he considered weeks must 
elapse before the patient would be fit to move. 

For four-and-twenty hours Afra assiduously called, 
almost every hour, to ask how Sebastian was. When the 
probationary term was finished, she conducted Fabiola to 
Irene's apartment, to receive herself assurance that he 
breathed, though scarcely more. The deed of her libera- 
tion from servitude was executed, her dowry was paid, and 
the whole Palatine and Forum rung- with the mad carouse 
and hideous rites of her nuptials. 

Fabiola inquired after Sebastian with such tender solici- 
tude, that Irene doubted not that she was a Christian. The 
first few times she contented herself with receiving' intelli- 
gence at the door, and putting into the hands of Sebastian's 
hostess a large sum towards the expenses of his recover}' • 
but after two days, when he was improving, she was 
courteously invited to enter ; and, for the first time in her 
life, she found herself consciously in the bosom of a Chris- 
tian family. 



aus 



FABIOLA; OR, 



Irene, we are told, was the widow of Castulus, one of 
the Chromatian band of converts. Her husband had just 
suffered death; but she remained still, unnoticed, in the 
apartments held by him in the palace. Two daughters lived 
with her; and a marked difference in their behaviour soon 
struck Fabiola, as she became familiar with them. One 
evidently thought Sebastian's presence an intrusion, and 
seldom or naver approached him. Her behaviour to her 
mother was rude and haughty, her ideas all belonged to 
the common world,— she was selfish, light, and forward. 
The other, who was the younger, was a perfect contrast 
to her, — so gentle, docile, and affectionate ; so considerate 
about others, so devoted to her mother ; so kind and atten- 
tive to the poor patient. Irene herself was a type of the 
Christian matron, in the middle class of life. Fabiola did 
not find her intelligent, or learned, or witty, or highly 
polished ; but she saw her always calm, active, sensible, 
and honest. Then she was clearly warm-hearted, generous, 
deeply affectionate, and sweetly patient. The pagan lady 
had never seen such a household, — so simple, frugal, and 
orderly. Nothing disturbed it, except the character of the 
elder sister. In a few days it was ascertained that the 
daily visitor was not a Christian; but this caused no change 
in their treatment of her. Then she in her turn made a 
discovery, which mortified her — that the elder daughter 
was still heathen. All that she saw made a favourable 
impression on her, and softened the hard crust of prejudice 
on her mind. For the present, however, her thoughts 
were all absorbed in Sebastian, whose recovery was slow. 
She formed plans with Irene for carrying him off to her 
Campanian villa, where she would have leisure to confer 
with him on religion. An insuperable obstacle, however, 
rose to this project. 

We will not attempt to lead our reader into the feel- 
ings of Sebastian. To have yearned after martyrdom, to 
have prayed for it, to have suffered all its pangs, to have 
died in it as far as human consciousness went, to have lost 
sight of this world, and now to awaken in it again, no mar- 
tyr, but an ordinary wayfaring man on probation, who 
mig'ht yet lose salvation, — was surely a greater trial than 



CII. XXVII.] THE CHUKCII OF THE CATACOMBS. 299 

martyrdom itself. It was to be like a man who, in the 
midst of a stormy night, should try to cross an angry 
river, or tempestuous arm of the sea, and, after struggling' 
for hours, and having his skiff twirled round and round 
and all but upset, should find himself relanded on the same 
side as he started from. Or, it was like St. Paul sent 
lack to earth and to Satan's buffets, after having heard 
the mysterious words which only one Intelligence can 
utter. Yet no murmur escaped him, no regret. He adored 
in silence the Divine Will, hoping that its purpose was 
only to give him the merit of a double martyrdom. For 
this second crown he so earnestly longed, that he rejected 
every proposal for flight and concealment. 

" I have now," he generously said, " earned one privi- 
lege of a martyr, that of speaking boldly to the persecu- 
tors. This I will use the first day that I can leave my bed. 
Nurse, me, therefore, well, that it may be the sooner." 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE SECOND CKOWX. 

The memorable plot which the black slave betrayed to Cor- 
vinus, was one to which allusion has already been made, in 
the conversation between Fulvius and his guardian. He was 
convinced from the blind martyr's unsuspecting' admissions, 
that Ao'nes was a Christian, and he believed he had now 
two strings to his bow ; either he could terrify her into 
marriage with himself, or he could destroy her, and obtain a 
good share of her wealth, by confiscation. He was nerved 
for this second alternative by the taunts and exhortations 
of Eurotas ; but, despairing- of obtaining another interview, 
he wrote her a respectful, but pressing letter, descriptive of 
his disinterested attachment to her, and entreating- her to 
accept his suit. There was but the faintest hint at the 
end, that duty might compel him to take another course, 
if humble petition did not prevail. 

To this application he received a calm, well-bred, but 



unmistakeable refusal; a stern, final, and hopeless rejec- 
tion. But more, the letter stated in clear terms, that' the 
writer was already espoused to the spotless Lamb, and 
could admit from no perishable being expressions of per- 
sonal attachment. This rebuff steeled his heart against 
pity ; but he determined to act prudently. 

In the meantime, Fabiola, seeing the determination of 
Sebastian not to fly, conceived the romantic idea of saving 
him, in spite of himself, by extorting his pardon from the 
emperor. She did not know the depths of wickedness in 
man's heart. She thought the tyrant might fume for a 
moment, but that he would never condemn a man twice to 
death. Some pity and mercy, she thought, must linger in 
his breast ; and her earnest pleading and tears would extract 
them, as heat does the hidden balsam from the hard wood. 
She accordingly sent a petition for an audience ; and know- 
ing the covetousness of the man, presumed, as she said, to 
offer him a slight token of her own and her late father's 
loyal attachment. This was a ring with jewels of rare 
beauty, and immense value. The present was accepted ; 
but she was merely told to attend with her memorial at the 
Palatine on the 20th, in common with other petitioners, and 
wait for the emperor's descent by the great staircase, on 
his way to sacrifice. TJnencouraging- as was this answer, 
she resolved to risk any thing, and do her best. 

The appointed day came ; and Fabiola, in her mourning 
habits, worn both as a suppliant, and for her father's death, 
took her stand in a row of far more wretched creatures 
than herself, mothers, children, sisters, who held petitions 
for mercy, for those dearest to them, now in dungeons or 
mines. She felt the little hope she had entertained die 
within her at the sight of so much wretchedness, too much 
for it all to expect favour. But fainter grew its last spark, 
at every step that the tyrant took down the marble stairs, 
though she saw her brilliant ring sparkling on his coarse 
hand. For on each step he snatched a paper from some 
sorrowful suppliant, looked at it scornfully, and either tore 
it up, or dashed it on the ground. Only here and there, 
he handed one to his secretary, a man scarcely less impe- 
rious than himself. 



CH. XXVII.] THE CHURCn OF THE CATACOMBS. 301 

It was now nearly Fabiola's turn : the emperor was only 
two steps above her, and her heart beat violently, not from 
fear of man, but from anxiety about Sebastian's fate. She 
would have prayed, had she known how, or to whom. 
Maximian was stretching- out his hand to take a paper 
offered to him, when he drew back, and turned round, on 
hearing- his name most unceremoniously and peremptorily 
called out. Fabiola looked up too ; for she knew the voice. 

Opposite to her, high in the white marble wall, she 
had observed an open window, corniced in yellow marble, 
which gave lig-ht to a back corridor leading- to where Irene's 
apartments were. She now looked up, guided by the 
voice, and in the dark panel of the window, a beautiful, 
but awful picture was seen. It was Sebastian, wan and 
thin, who, with features almost etherealised, calm and stern, 
as if no long-er capable of passion, or strong- emotion, stood 
there before them ; his lacerated breast and arms appearing- 
amidst the loose drapery he had thrown around him. For 
he had heard the familiar trumpet-notes, which told him 
of the emperor's approach, and he had risen, and crept 
thus far, to greet him.* 

" Maximian !" he cried out, in a hollow but distinct 
voice. 

" Who art thou, sirrah ! that makest so free with thine 
emperor's name ?" asked the tyrant, turning- upon him. 

" I am come as from the dead, to warn thee that the 
day of wrath and vengeance is fast approaching. Thou 
hast spilt the blood of God's Saints upon the pavement of 
this city ; thou hast cast their holy bodies into the river, or 
flung them away upon the dunghills at the gates. Thou 
hast pulled down God's temples, and profaned His altars, 
and rifled the inheritance of His poor. For these, and 
thine OAvn foul crimes and lewdnesses, thine injustices and 
oppressions, thy covetousness and thy pride, God hath 
judged thee, and His wrath shall soon overtake thee ; and 
thou shalt die the death of the violent ; and God will give 
His Church an emperor after His own heart. And thy 
memory shall be accursed through the whole world, till 

* See the Acts of St. Sebastian. 



302 FABIOLA; OR, 

the end of time. ftepent thee, while thou hast time, im- 
pious man ; and ask forgiveness of God, in the name of 
Him, the Crucified, whom thou hast persecuted till now." 

Deep silence was held while these words were fully ut- 
tered. The emperor seemed under the influence of a para- 
lysing awe ; for soon recognising- Sehastian, he felt as if 
standing in the presence of the dead. But quickly reco- 
vering himself and his passion, he exclaimed : " Ho ! some 
of you, go round instantly and bring him before me" (he 
did not like to pronounce his name). " Hyphax here ! 
Where is Hyphax ? I saw him just now." 

But the Moor had at once recognised Sebastian, and 
run off to his quarters. " Ha ! he is gone, I see ; then 
here, you dolt, what's your name ?" (addressing Corvinus, 
who was attending his father,) " go to the Numidian court, 
and summon Hyphax here directly." 

With a heavy heart Corvinus went on his errand. 
Hyphax had told his tale, and put his men in order of de- 
fence. Only one entrance at the end of the court was left 
open ; and when the messenger had reached it, he durst not 
advance. Fifty men stood along each side of the space, 
with Hyphax and Jubala at the opposite end. Silent and 
immovable, with their dark chests and arms bare, each 
with his arrow fixed, and pointed to the door, and the 
string ready drawn, they looked like an avenue of basalt 
statues, leading to an Egyptian temple. 

" Hyphax," said Corvinus, in a tremulous voice, "the 
emperor sends for you." 

" Tell his majesty, respectfully, from me," replied the 
African, " that my men have sworn, that no man passes 
that threshold, coming in, or going out, without receiving, 
through his breast or his back, a hundred shafts into his 
heart ; until the emperor shall have sent us a token of for- 
giveness for every offence." 

Corvinus hastened back with this message, and the 
emperor received it with a laugh. They were men with 
whom he could not afford to quarrel; for he relied on 
them in battle, or insurrection, for picking out the lead- 
ers. " The cunning rascals !" he exclaimed. " There, take 
that trinket to Hyphax' s black spouse." And he gave him 



CH. XXVI].] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 303 

Fabiola' s splendid ring 1 . He hastened Lack, delivered his 
gracious embassy, and threw the ring- across. In an in- 
stant every bow dropt, and every string relaxed. Jubala, 
delighted, sprang' forward and caught the ring. A heavy 
blow from her husband's fist felled her to the ground, and 
was greeted with a shout of applause. The savage seized 
the jewel; and the woman rose, to fear that she had only 
exchanged one slavery for a worse. 

Hyphax screened himself behind the imperial com- 
mand. "If," he said, "you had allowed us to send an 
arrow through his head or heart, all would have beer 
straight. As it was, we are not responsible." 

" At any rate, I will myself see my work done properly 
this time," said Maximian. " Two of you fellows with 
clubs come here." 

Two of his attendant executioners came from behind; 
Sebastian, scarcely able to stand, was also there; mild and 
intrepid. " Now, my men," said the barbarian, " I must 
not have any blood spilt on these stairs ; so you knock the 
life out of him with your cudgels ; make clean work of it. 
Madam, what is your petition ?" — stretching out his hand 
to Fabiola, whom he recognised, and so addressed more 
respectfully. She was horrified and disgusted, and almost 
fainting at the sight before her; so she said, "Sire, I fear 
it is too late !" 

" Why too late ?" looking at the paper. A flash came 
from his eye, as he said to her : " What ! You knew that 
Sebastian was alive? Are you a Christian ?" 

" No, sire," she replied. Why did the denial almost 
dry up in her throat ? She could not for her life have 
said she was any thing else. Ah ! Fabiola, thv day is not 
far off. 

" But, as j^ou said just now," replied the emperor, 
more serene, returning her petition, " I fear it is too late ; I 
think that blow must have been the ichts grafiosus."* 

" I feel faint, sire." said she, respectfully; "may I re- 
tire ?" 

* The coup de grace, the blow by which culprits were " put out 
of their pain." Breaking the legs of the crucified was considered 
an ictus gratiosus. 



304 fabiola; or, 

" By all means. But, by the bye, I have to thank 
you for the beautiful ring- which you sent, and which I 
have given to Hyphax's wife" (lately her own slave !). " It 
will look more brilliant on a black hand, than even on 
mine. Adieu !" and he kissed his hand with a wicked 
smile, as if there were no martyr's body near to witness 
against him. He was right ; a heavy blow on the head 
had proved fatal ; and Sebastian was safe where he had so 
long'ed to be. He bore with him a double palm, and re- 
ceived a twofold crown. Yet still, an ignominious end 
before the world; beaten to death without ceremony, while 
the emperor conversed. How much of martyrdom is in 
its disgrace ! Woe to us when we know that our suffer- 
ings earn us honour ! 

The tyrant, seeing his work completed, ordered that 
Sebastian at least should not be cast into the Tiber nor on 
a dunghill. " Put plenty of weights to his body," he 
added, " and throw it into the Cloaca,* to rot there, and 
be the food of vermin. The Christians at least shall not 
have it." This was done ; and the Saint's Acts inform us, 
that in the night he appeared to the holy matron Lucina, 
and directed her where to find his sacred remains. She 
obeyed his summons, and they were buried with honour 
where now stands his basilica. 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

THE CRITICAL DAY : ITS FIEST PART. 

There are critical days in the life of man and of mankind. 
Not merely the days of Marathon, of Cannae, or of Le- 
panto, in which a different result might have influenced 
the social or political fate of mankind. But it is probable 
that Columbus could look back upon not only the day, but 
the precise hour, the decision of which secured to the world 
all that he taught and gave it, and to himself the singular 
place which he holds among- its worthies. And each of 

* The great sewer of Eome. 



CH. XXVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 305 

us, little and insignificant as he may be, has had his criti- 
cal day; his day of choice, which has decided his fate 
throug-h life ; his day of Providence, which altered his 
position or his relations to others; his day of grace, 
when the spiritual conquered the material. In whatever 
way it has been, every soul, like Jerusalem,* has had 
its day. 

And so with Fabiola, has not all been working- up to- 
wards a crisis 1 Emperor and slave, father and guest, the 
good and the wicked, Christian and heathen, rich and 
poor; then life and death, joy and sorrow, learning and 
simplicity, silence and conversation, have they not all come 
as agents, pulling- at her mind in opposite ways, yet all 
directing her noble and generous, though haughty and 
impetuous, soul one way, as the breeze and the rudder 
struggle against one another, only to determine the ship's 
sing - le path ? By what shall the resolution of these con- 
tending forces be determined ? That rests not with man ; 
wisdom, not philosophy, can decide. We have been en- 
gaged with events commemorated on the 20th of January; 
let the reader look, and see what comes on the following- 
day in his calendar, and he will agree it must be an im- 
portant day in our little narrative. 

From the audience, Fabiola retired to the apartments 
of Irene, where she found nothing but desolation and sor- 
row. She sympathised fully with the grief around her, 
but she saw and felt that there was a difference between 
her affliction and theirs. There v r as a buoyancy about 
them; there was almost an exultation breaking out through 
their distress ; their clouds were sun-lit and brig-htened at 
times. Hers was a dead and sullen, a dull and heavy gloom, 
as if she had sustained a hopeless loss. Her search after 
Christianity, as associated with any thing amiable or in- 
telligent, seemed at an end. Her desired teacher, or in- 
formant, was gone. When the crowd had moved away 
from the palace, she took affectionate leave of the widow 
and her daughters ; but, some way or other, she coidd not 
like the heathen one as she loved her sister. 

* "If thou hadst known, and in this thy day," &c. St. Luke 
six. 42. 



306 fabiola; or, 

She sat alone at home, and tried to read ; she took up 
volume after volume of favourite works on Death, on For- 
titude, on Friendship, on Virtue ; and every one of them 
seemed insipid, unsound, and insincere. She plunged into a 
deeper and a deeper melancholy, which lasted till towards 
evening', when she was disturbed by a latter being' put into 
her hand. The Greek slave, Graja, who brought it in, 
retired to the other end of the room, alarmed and per- 
plexed by what she witnessed. For her mistress had 
scarcely glanced over the note, than she leapt up wildly 
from her seat, threw her hair into disorder with her hands, 
which she pressed, as in ag-ony, on her temples, stood thus 
for a moment, looking' up with an unnatural stare in her 
eyes, and then sank heavily down again on her chair with 
a deep groan. Thus she remained for some minutes, hold- 
ing the letter in both her hands, with her arms relaxed, 
apparently unconscious. 

"Who brought this letter?" she then asked, quite col- 
lected. 

" A soldier, madam," answered the maid. 

" Ask him to come here." 

While her errand was being delivered, she composed 
herself, and gathered up her hair. As soon as the soldier 
appeared she held this brief dialogue : 

" Whence do you come ?" 

" I am on giiard at the Tullian prison." 

" Who gave you the letter ?" 

" The Lady Agnes herself." 

" On what cause is the poor child there ?" 

" On the accusation of a man named Fulvius, for being 
a Christian." 

" For nothing else ?" 

" For nothing, I am sure." 

" Then we shall soon set that matter right. I can 
give witness to the contrary. Tell her I will come pre- 
sently; and take this for your trouble." 

The soldier retired, and Fabiola was left alone. When 
there was something to do, her mind was at once energetic 
and concentrated, though afterwards the tenderness of 
womanhood might display itself the more painfully. She 



CH. XXVIII.] THE CIIUHCII OF THE CATACOMBS. 807 

wrapped herself close up, proceeded alone to the prison, 
and was at once conducted to the separate cell, which 
Agnes had obtained, in consideration of her rank, backed 
by her parents' handsome largitions. 

" What is the meaning' of this, Agnes ?" eagerly in- 
quired Fabiola, after a warm embrace. 

" I was arrested a few hours ago, and brought hither." 

" And is Fulvius fool enough, as well as scoundrel, to 
trump up an accusation against you, which five minutes 
will confute? I will go toTertullus myself, and contradict 
his absurd charge at once." 

" What charge, dearest ?" 

" Why, that you are a Christian." 

" And so I am, thank God !" replied Agnes, making 
on herself the si°'n of the cross. 

The announcement did not strike Fabiola like a tlrun- 
derbolt, nor rouse her, nor stagger her, nor perplex her. 
Sebastian's death had taken all edge or heaviness from it. 
She had found that faith existing in what she had considered 
the type of every manly virtue ; she was not surprised to 
find it in her, whom she had loved as the very model of 
womanly perfection. The simple grandeur of that child's 
excellence, her guileless innocence, and unexcepting kind- 
ness, she had almost worshipped. It made Fabiola' s diffi- 
culties less, it brought her problem nearer to a solution, 
to find two such peerless beings to be not mere chance- 
grown plants, but springing from the same seed. She 
bowed her head in a kind of reverence for the child, and 
asked her, " How long have you been so ?" 

" All my life, dear Fabiola ; I sucked the faith, as we 
say, with my mother's milk." 

" And why did you conceal it from me ?" 

" Because I saw your violent prejudices ag'ainst us ; 
how you abhorred us as practisers of the most ridiculous 
superstitions, as perpetrators of the most odious abomina- 
tions. I perceived how ) r ou contemned us as unintellectual, 
uneducated, unphilosopiucal, and unreasonable. You would 
not hear a word about us ; and the only object of hatred to 
your generous mind was the Christian name." 

" True, dearest Agnes ; yet I think that had I known 



303 

that you, or Sebastian, "was a Christian, I could not have 
hated it. I could have loved any thing in you." 

" You think so now, Fahiola ; hut you know not the 
force of universal prejudice, the weight of falsehood daily 
repeated. How many noble minds, fine intellects, and 
loving hearts have they enslaved, and induced to believe 
us to be all that we are not, something even worse than 
the worst of others!" 

" Well, Agnes, it is selfish in me to argue thus with 
you in your present position. You will of course compel 
Fulvius to ^roye that you are a Christian." 

" Oh, no ! dear Fabiola ; I have already confessed it, 
and intend to do so again publicly in the morning." 

" In the morning ! — what, to-morrow ?" asked Fabiola, 
shocked at the idea of any thing so immediate. 

" Yes, to-morrow. To prevent any clamour or dis- 
turbance about me (though I suspect few people will care 
much), I am to be interrogated early, and summary pro- 
ceedings will be taken. Is not that good news, dear?" 
asked Agnes eagerly, seizing her cousin's hands. And 
then putting on one of her ecstatic looks, she exclaimed, 
" Behold, what I have long coveted, I already see ; what 
I have hoped for, I hold safe ; to Him alone I feel already 
associated in heaven, whom here on earth I have loved 
with all devotedness.* Oh ! is He not beautiful, Fa- 
biola, lovelier far than the angels who surround Him ! 
How sweet His smile ! how mild His eye ! how bland the 
whole expression of His face ! And that sweetest and 
most gracious Lady, who ever accompanies Him, our 
Queen and Mistress, who loves Him alone, how winning-ly 
doth she beckon me forward to join her train ! I come ! 
I come ! — They are departed, Fabiola ; but they return 
early for me to-morrow ; early, mind, and we part no 
more." 

Fabiola, felt her own heart swell and heave, as if a new 
element were entering - in. She knew not what it was, 
but it seemed something better than a mere human emo- 

* " Ecce quod concupivi jam video, quod speravi jam teneo; 
ipsi sum juncta in coelis quern in terris posita tota devotione dilexi." 
Office of St, Agnes. 



CH. XXVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 309 

fcion. She had not yet heard the name of Grace. Agues, 
however, saw the favourable chang-e in her spirit, and in- 
wardly thanked God for it. She begged her cousin to 
return before dawn to her, for their final farewell. 

At this same time a consultation was being- held at the 
house of the prefect, between that worthy functionary and 
his worthier son. The reader had better listen to it, to 
learn its purport. 

" Certainly," said the magistrate, " if the old sorceress 
was right in one thing - , she oug-ht to be in the other. I 
will answer, from experience, how powerful is wealth in 
conquering" any resistance." 

" And you will allow, too," rejoined Corvinus, " from 
the enumeration we have made, that among- the compe- 
titors for Fabiola's hand, there has not been one who could 
not justly be rather called an aspirant after her fortune." 

" Yourself included, my dear Corvinus." 

" Yes, so far : but not if I succeed in offering- her, 
with myself, the lady Agnes' s great wealth." 

" And in a manner too, rnethinks, that will more easily 
gain upon what I hear of her generous and lofty disposi- 
tion. Giving her that wealth independent of conditions, 
and then offering yourself to her, will put her under one 
of two obligations, either to accept you as her husband, or 
throw you back the fortune." 

" Admirable, father ! I never saw the second alter- 
native before. Do you think there is no possibility of 
securing it except through her ?" 

" None whatever. Fulvius, of course, will apply for 
his share ; and the probability is, that the emperor will 
declare he intends to take it all for himself. For he hates 
Fulvius. But if I propose a more popular and palpably 
reasonable plan, of giving the property to the nearest 
relation, who worships the gods — this Fabiola does, don't 
she?" 

" Certainly, father." 

" I think he will embrace it : while I am sure there is 
no chance of his making a free gift to me. The proposal 
from a judge would enrage him." 

" Then how will you manage it, father ?" 



310 

" I will have an imperial rescript prepared during tlie 
night, ready for signature ; and I will proceed immediately 
after the execution to the palace, magnify the unpopu- 
larity which is sure to follow it, lay it all on Fulvius, and 
show the emperor how his granting" the property to the 
next in the settlement of it, will redound greatly to his 
credit and g-lory. He is as vain as he is cruel and rapa- 
cious ; and one vice must he made to fight another." 

" Nothing could be better, my dear father ; I shall 
retire to rest with an easy mind. To-morrow will be the 
critical day of my life. All my future depends upon whe- 
ther I am accepted or rejected." 

" I only wish," added Tertullus, rising, " that I could 
have seen this peerless lady, and sounded the depths of her 
philosophy, before your final bargain was struck." 

" Fear not, father : she is well worthy of being your 
daughter-in-law. Yes, to-morrow is indeed the turning- 
point of my fortunes." 

Even Corvinus can have his critical day. Why not 
Fabiola? 

"While this domestic interview was g"oing on, a confer- 
ence was taking place between Fulvius and his amiable 
uncle. The latter, entering late, found his nephew sitting 
sullen and alone in the house, and thus accosted him. 

" Well, Fulvius, is she secured '?" 

" She is, uncle, as fast as bars and walls can make 
her ; but her spirit is free and independent as ever." 

" Never mind that : sharp steel makes short work of 
spirit. Is her fate certain ? and are its consequences 
sure?" 

" Why, if nothing else happens, the first is safe ; the 
second have still to encounter imperial caprice. But I 
own I feel pain and remorse at sacrificing so young a life, 
and for an insecure result." 

" Come, Fulvius," said the old man sternly, looking 
as cold as a grey rock in the morning mist ; " no softness, 
I hope, in this matter. Do you remember what day is 
to-moiTow ?" 

" Yes, the twelfth before the calends of February."* 
* Jan. 21. 



CH. XXVIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 311 

" The critical day always for you. It was on this clay 
that to gain another's wealth, you committed — — " 

" Peace, peace !" interrupted Fulvius in agony. " Why 
will you always remind me of every thing I most wish 
to forget?" 

" Because of this : you wish to forget yourself, and 
that must not be. I must take from you every pretence 
to he guided by conscience, virtue, or even honour. It is 
folly to affect compassion for any one's life, who stands in 
the way of your fortune, after what you did to her." 

Fulvius bit his lip in silent rage, and covered his crim- 
son face with his hands. Eurotas roused him by saying : 
" Well then, to-morrow is another, and probably a final 
critical day for you. Let us calml}' weigh its prospects. 
You will go to the emperor, and ask for your rightful 
share in the confiscated property. Suppose it is granted ?" 

" I will sell it as quick as possible, pay my debts, and 
retire to some country where my name has never been 
heard." 

" Suppose your claims are rejected ?" 

" Impossible, impossible !" exclaimed Fulvius, racked 
by the very idea ; " it is my right, hardly earned. It 
cannot be denied me." 

" Quietly, my young friend ; let us discuss the matter 
coolly. Remember our proverb : ' From the stirrup to 
the saddle there has been many a fall.' Suppose only 
that your rights are refused you." 

" Then I am a ruined man. I have no other prospect 
before me, of retrieving' my fortunes here. Still I must 
fly hence." 

" Good : and what do you owe at Janus's arch ?"* 

" A good couple of hundred sestertia,t between prin- 
cipal and compound interest at fifty per cent, to that un- 
conscionable JeAV Ephraim." 

" On what security ?" 

" On my sure expectation of this lady's estates." 

* In or near the forum stood several arches dedicated to Janus, 
and called simply by his name, near which usurers or money-lenders 
kept their posts. 

t 1600/. 



312 PABIOLA; OB, 

" And if you are disappointed, do you think he will let 
you fly V 

" Xot if he knows it, most assuredly. But we must 
be prepared from this moment for any emergency ; and 
that with the utmost secrecy." 

" Leave that to me, Fulvius ; you see how eventful 
the issue of to-morrow may be to you, or rather of to-day; 
for morning is approaching. Life or death to you hang 
upon it ; it is the great day of your existence. Courage, 
then, or rather an inflexible determination, steel you to work 
out its destiny !" 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

TUE SAME DA ft ITS SECOND PART. 

The day is not yet dawning, and nevertheless we speak of 
having reached its second part. How may this be ? Gen- 
tle reader, have we not led you to its first vespers, divided 
as they are between Sebastian of yesterday, and Agnes of 
to-day ? Have not the two sung them together, without 
jealousy, and with fraternal impartiality, the one from the 
heaven which he ascended in the morning, the other from 
the dungeon into which she descended in the evening? 
Glorious Church of Christ ! g - reat in the unclashing com- 
bination of thy unity, stretching from heaven to beneath 
the earth, wherever exists a prison-house of the just. 

From his lodgings Fulvius went out into the night-air, 
which was crisp ana sharp, to cool his blood, and still his 
throbbing brows. He wandered about, almost without 
any purpose ; but found himself imperceptibly drawing 
nearer and nearer to the Tullian prison. As he was liter- 
ally without affection, what could be his attraction thither? 
It was a strangely compounded feeling, made up of as bit- 
ter ingredients as ever filled the poisoner's cup. There 
was gnawing remorse; there was baffled pride; there 
was goading avarice ; there was humbling shame ; there 
was a terrible sense of the approaching consummation of 
ms viUany. It was true, he had been rejected, scorned, 



CH. XXIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 313 

baffled by a mere child, while her fortune was necessary 
for his rescue from beggary and death, — so at least he 
reasoned ; yet he would still rather have her hand than 
her head. Her murder appeared revoltingly atrocious to 
him, unless absolutely inevitable. So he would give her 
another chance. 

He was now at the prison-gate, of which he possessed 
the watchword. He pronounced it, entered ; and, at his 
desire, was conducted to his victim's cell. She did not 
flutter, nor run into a corner, like a bird into whose cag - e 
the hawk has found entrance : calm, and intrepid, she 
stood before him. 

"Respect me here, Fulvius, at least," she gently said; 
" I have but few hours to live : let them be spent in 
peace." 

" Madam," he replied, " I have come to lengthen them, 
if you please, to years ; and, instead of peace, I offer hap- 
piness." 

u Surely, sir, if I understand you, the time is past for 
this sad vanity. Thus to address one whom you have 
delivered over to death, is at best a mockerv." 

" It is not so, gentle lady ; your fate is in your own 
hands j only your own obstinacy will give you over to 
death. I have come to renew, once more, my offer, and 
with it that of life. It is your last chance." 

" Have I not before told you that I am a Christian ; 
and that I would forfeit a thousand lives rather than be- 
tray my faith?" 

" But now I ask you no longer to do this. The gates 
of the prison are yet open to me. Fly with me ; and, in 
spite of the imperial decrees, you shall be a Christian, and 
yet live." 

" Then have I not clearly told you that I am already 
espoused to my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that 
to Him alone I keep eternal faith ?" 

" Folly and madness ! Persevere in it till to-morrow, 
and that may be awarded to you which you fear more 
than death, and which will drive this illusion for ever from 
your mind." 

" I fear nothing for Christ. For know, that I have 



814 fabiola; or, 

an angel ever guarding- me, who will not suffer his Mas- 
ter's handmaid to suffer scorn.* But now, cease this un- 
worthy importunity, and leave me the last privilege of the 
condemned — solitude." 

Fulvius had been gradually losing patience, and could 
no longer restrain his passion. Rejected again, baffled 
once more by a child, this time with the sword hanging 
over her neck ! A flame irrepressible broke out from the 
smouldering heat within him; and, in an instant, the 
venomous ingredients that we have described as mingled 
in his heart, were distilled into one black, solitary drop, — 
hatred. With flashing look, and furious gesture, he 
broke forth : 

" Wretched woman, I give thee one more opportunity 
of rescuing thyself from destruction. Which wilt thou 
have, life with me, or death 1" 

" Death even I will choose for her, rather than life 
with a monster like thee !" exclaimed a voice just within 
the door. 

" She shall have it," he rejoined, clenching his fist, and 
darting a mad look at the new speaker ; " and thou, too, 
if again thou darest to fling thy baneful shadow across my 
path." 

Fabiola was alone for the last time with Agnes. She 
had been for some minutes unobserved watching the con- 
test, between what would have appeared to her, had she 
been a Christian, an angel of light and a spirit of darkness; 
and truly Agnes looked like the first, if human creature 
ever did. In preparation for her coming festival of full 
espousals to the Lamb, when she should sign her contract 
of everlasting love, as He had done, in blood, she had 
thrown over the dark garments of her mourning - a white 
and spotless bridal robe. In the midst of that dark 
prison, lighted by a solitary lamp, she looked radiant and 
almost dazzling ; while her tempter, wrapped up in his dark 
cloak, crouching down to rush out of the low door of the 
dungeon, looked like a black and vanquished demon, plung- 
ing into an abyss beneath. 

* " Jlecum enim habeo custodem corporis mei, Angelum Do- 
mini." The Breviary. 



CH. XXIX. | THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 315 

Then Fabiola looked into her countenance, and thought 
she Iiad never seen it half so sweet. No trace of anger, of 
fear, of flurry, or agitation, was there ; no paleness, no flush, 
no alternations of hectic excitement and pallid depression. 
Her eyes beamed with more than their usual mild intelli • 
gence ; her smile was as placid and cheerful as it ever was, 
when they discoursed together. Then there was a noble air 
about her, a ereatness of look and manner, which Fabiola 
would have compared to that mien and stateliness, and 
that ambrosial atmosphere by which, in poetical mythology, 
a being of a hig'her sphere was recognised on earth.* It 
was not inspiration, for it was passionless ; but it was such 
expression and manner, as her highest conceptions of vir- 
tue and intellect, combined in the soul, might be supposed 
to stamp upon the outward form. Hence her feelings 
passed beyond love into a higher range ; they were more 
akin to reverence. 

Agnes took one of lier hands in each of her own, crossed 
them upon her own calm bosom, and looking into her face 
with a gaze of blandest earnestness, said, 

" Fabiola, I have one dying request to make you. 
You have never refused me any : I am sure you will not 
this." 

" Speak not thus to me, dearest Agnes ; you must not 
request; you command me now." 

" Then promise me, that you will immediately apply 
your mind to master the doctrines of Christianity. I know 
you will embrace them ; and then you will no longer be 
to me what vou are now." 

" And what is that ?" 

" Dark, dark, dearest Fabiola. When I look upon you 
thus, I see in you a noble intellect, a generous disposi- 
tion, an affectionate heart, a cultivated mind, a fine moral 
feeling, and a virtuous life. What can be desired more in 
woman ? and yet over all these splendid gifts there hangs 
a cloud, to my eyes, of gloomy shadow, the shade of 
death. Drive it awaA r , and all will be lightsome and 
brig-lit." 



•*&* 



" Incessu patuit Dea." 



316 FABIOLA; OR, 

" I feel it, dear Agnes, — I feel it. Standing before 
you, I seem to be as a black spot compared to your bright- 
ness. And how, embracing Christianity, shall I become 
light like you ?" 

"You must pass, Fabiola, through the torrent that 
sunders us" (Fabiola started, recollecting her dream). 
" Waters of refreshment shall flow over your body, and 
oil of gladness shall embalm your flesh ; and the soul shall 
be washed clean as driven snow, and the heart be softened 
as the babe's. From that bath you will come forth a new 
creature, born again to a new and immortal life." 

" And shall I lose all that you have but just now 
prized in me ?" asked Fabiola, somewhat downcast. 

" As the gardener," answered the martyr, " selects 
some hardy and robust, but unprofitable plant, and on it en- 
gTafts but a small shoot of one that is sweet and tender, 
and the flowers and fruits of this belong to the first, and 
yet deprive it of no grace, no grandeur, no strength that it 
had before, so will the new life you shall receive ennoble, 
elevate, and sanctify (you can scarcely understand this 
word), the valuable gifts of nature and education which 
you already possess. What a glorious being Christianity 
will make you, Fabiola !" 

" What a new world you are leading me to, dear 
Agnes ! Oh, that you were not leaving 1 me outside its 
very threshold !" 

" Hark !" exclaimed Agnes, in an ecstasy of joy. 
" They come, they come ! You hear the measured tramp 
of the soldiers in the gallery. They are the bridesmen 
coming to summon me. But I see on high the white-robed 
bridesmaids borne on the bright clouds of morning - , and 
beckoning me forward. Yes, my lamp is trimmed, and I 
go forth to meet the Bridegroom. Farewell, Fabiola, weep 
not for me. Oh, that I could make you feel, as I do, the 
happiness of dying for Christ ! And now I will speak a 
word to you which I never have addressed to you before, — 
God bless you !" And she made the sign of the Cross on 
Fabiola's forehead. An embrace, convulsive on Fabiola's 
part, calm and tender on Agnes's, was their last earthly 
greeting. The one hastened home, filled with a new and 



CH. XXIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 317 

generous purpose ; the other resigned herself to the shame- 
stricken guard. 

Over the first part of the martyr's trials we cast a veil 
of silence, though ancient Fathers, and the Church in her 
offices, dwell upon it, as doubling her crown.* Suffice it 
to say, that her angel protected her from harm ;f and that 
the purity of her presence converted a den of infamy into 
a holy and lovely sanctuary.]: It was still early in the 
morning when she stood again before the tribunal of the 
prefect, in the Roman Forum ; unchanged and unscathed, 
without a blush upon her smiling countenance, or a pang 
of sorrow in her innocent heart. Only her unshorn hair, 
the symbol of virginity, which had been let loose, flowed 
down, in golden waves, upon her snow-white dress. § 

It was a lovely morning-. Many will remember it to 
have been a beautiful day on its anniversary, as they have 
walked out of the Nomentan Gate, now the Porta Pia, 
towards the church which bears our virgin-martyr's name, 
to see blessed upon her altar the two lambs, from whose 
wool are made the palliums sent by the Pope to the arch- 
bishops of his communion. Already the almond-trees are 
hoary, not with frost, but with blossoms • the earth is being* 
loosened round the vines, and spring seems latent in the 
swelling bvids, which are watching for the signal from the 
southern breeze, to burst and expand. [| The atmosphere, 
rising into a cloudless sky, has just that temperature that 

* " Duplex corona est praestita martyri." Prudenlius. 

f " Ingressa Agnes turpitudinis locum, Angeluru Domini prse- 
paratum invenit." The Breviary. 

% The Church of St. Agnes in the Piazza Navona, one of the 
most beautiful in Rome. 

" Cui posse soli Cunctipotons dedit 
Castum vel ipsum reddere fornicem 
* * * * 

Nil non pudicum est, quod pia visere 
Dignaris, almo vel pede tangere." 

Prudentius. 

§ " Non intorto crine caput comptum." Her head not dressed 
with braided hair. St. Ambrose, lib. i. de Virgin, c. 2. See Pru- 
dentius's description of St. Eulalia, Trepi eref. hymn. iii. 31. 

|| " Solvitur acris hyems, grata vice veris et Favoni." Horace. 



318 

one loves, of a sun, already vigorous, not heating, but soft- 
ening, the slightly frosty air. Such we have frequently 
experienced St. Agnes' s day, tog-ether with joyful thou- 
sands, hastening to her shrine. 

The judge was sitting in the open Forum, and a suffi- 
cient crowd formed a circle round the charmed space, which 
few, save Christians, loved to enter. Among the spectators 
were two whose appearance attracted general attention; 
they stood opposite each other, at the ends of the semicircle 
formed by the multitude. One was a youth, enveloped in 
his toga, with a slouching hat over his eyes, so that his 
features could not be distinguished. The other was a lady 
of aristocratic mien, tall and erect, such as one does not 
expect to meet on such an occasion. Wrapped close about 
her, and so ample as to veil her from head to foot, like the 
beautiful ancient statue, known among artists by the name 
of Modesty,* she had a scarf or mantle of Indian workman- 
ship, woven in richest pattern of crimson, purple, and gold, 
a g'arment truly imperial, and less suitable, than even fe- 
male presence, to this place of doom and blood. A slave, 
or servant, of superior class attended her, carefully veiled 
also, like her mistress. The lady's mind seemed intent on 
one only object, as she stood immovable, leaning with her 
elbow on a marble post. 

Agnes was introduced by her guards into the open 
space, and stood intrepid, facing the tribunal. Her thoughts 
seemed to be far away ; and she took no notice even of 
those two who, till she appeared, had been objects of uni- 
versal observation. 

" Why is she unfettered '?" asked the prefect angrily. 

" She does not need it : she walks so readily," answered 
Catulus ; " and she is so young." 

" But she is obstinate as the oldest. Put manacles on 
her hands at once." 

The executioner turned over a quantity of such prison 
ornaments, — to Christian eyes really such, — and at length 
selected a pair as light and small as he could find, and 
placed them round her wrists. Agnes playfully, and with 

* Pudicitia. 



CH. XXIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 019 

a smile, shook her hands, and they fell, like St. Paul's 
viper, clattering 1 at her feet.* 

" They are the smallest we have, sir," said the softened 
executioner: " one so young- ought to wear other bracelets." 

"Silence, man!" rejoined the exasperated judge, who, 
turning - to the prisoner, said, in a blander tone : 

" Agnes, I pity thy youth, thy station, and the bad 
education thou hast received. I desire, if possible, to save 
thee. Think better while thou hast time. Renounce the 
false and pernicious maxims of Christianity, obey the im- 
perial edicts, and sacrifice to the gods." 

" It is useless," she replied, " to tempt me longer. My 
resolution is unalterable. I despise thy false divinities, 
and can only love and serve the one living God. Eternal 
Ruler, open wide the heavenly gates, until lately closed to 
man. Blessed Christ, call to Thee the soul that cleaveth 
unto Thee : victim first to Thee by virginal consecration ; 
now to Thy Father by martyrdom's immolation." f 

" I waste time, I see," said the impatient prefect, who 
saw symptoms of compassion rising in the multitude. " Se- 
cretary, write the sentence. We condemn Ag-nes, for con- 
tempt of the imperial edicts, to be punished by the sword." 

" On what road, and at what mile-stone, shall the judg- 
ment be executed V'% asked the headsman. 

" Let it be carried into effect at once," was the reply. 

Agnes raised for one moment her hands and eyes to 
heaven, then calmly knelt down. With her own hands 
she drew forward her silken hair over her head, and ex- 
posed her neck to the blow.§ A pause ensued, for the ex- 
ecutioner was trembling with emotion, and could not wield 

* St. Ambrose, ubi supra. 

f " iEterne Rector, divide januas, 

Cceli, obserratas terrigenis prius, 

Ac te sequentem, Christe, animam voca, 

Cum virginalem, turn Patris hostiam." 

Prudentius, Ttpi trref. 14. 

J This was the usual practice, to behead out of the gate, at the 
second, third, or fourth mile-stone; but it is clear from Prudentius 
and other writers that St. Agnes suffered at the place of trial, of 
which we have other instances. 

§ Prudentius. 



320 

his sword.* As the child knelt alone, in her white robe, 
with her head inclined, her arms modestly crossed upon 
her hosom, and her amber locks hanging- almost to the 
ground, and veiling her features, she might not unaptly 
have been compared to some rare plant, of which the slen- 
der stalk, white as the lily, bent with the luxuriancy of 
its g-olden blossom. 

The judge angrily reproved the executioner for his 
Lesitation, and bid him at once do his duty. The man 
passed the back of his rough left hand across his eyes, as 
he raised his sword. It was seen to flash for an instant 
in the air ; and the next moment, flower and stem were 
lying scarcely displaced on the ground. It might have been 
taken for the prostration of prayer, had not the white robe 
been in that minute dyed into a rich crimson — washed 
in the blood of the Lamb. 

The man on the judge's right hand had looked with 
unflinching eye upon the stroke, and his lip curled in a 
wicked triumph over the fallen. The lady opposite had 
turned away her head, till the murmur, that follows a 
suppressed breath in a crowd, told her all was over. She 
then boldly advanced forward, unwound from round her 
person her splendid brocaded mantle, and stretched it, as 
a pall, over the mangled body. A burst of applause fol- 
lowed this graceful act of womanly feeling, f as the lady 
stood, now in the garb of deepest mourning, before the 
tribunal. 

11 Sir," she said in a tone clear and distinct, but full of 
emotion, " grant me one petition. Let not the rude hands 
of your servants again touch and profane the hallowed 
remains of her, whom I have loved more than any thing on 
earth ; but let me bear them hence to the sepulchre of her 
fathers ; for she was noble as she was good." 

Tertullus was manifestly irritated, as he replied : " Ma- 
dam, whoever you may be, your request cannot be granted. 
Catulus, see that the body be cast, as usual, into the river, 
or burnt." 

* St. Ambrose. 

■f Prudantius mentions that a sudden fall of snow shrouded thus 
the body of St. Eulalia lying in the forum. Ubi sup. 



CH. XXIX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 321 

" I entreat you, sir," the lady earnestly insisted, " by 
every claim which female virtue has upon you, by any 
tear which a mother has shed over you, by every soothing- 
word which a sister has ever spoken to you, in illness or 
sorrow ; by every ministration of their g'entle hands, I 
implore you to grant my humble prayer. And if, when 
you return home this evening, you will be met at the 
threshold by daughters, who will kiss your hand, though 
stained with the blood of one, whom you may feel proud if 
they resemble, be able to say to them, at least, that this 
slightest tribute to the maidenly delicacy which they prize, 
has not been refused." 

Such common sympathy was manifested, that Tertullus, 
anxious to check it, asked her sharply : 

" Pray, are you, too, a Christian ?" 

She hesitated for one instant, then replied, " No, sir, 
I am not ; but I own that if any thing coidd make me 
one, it would be what I have seen this day." 

" What do you mean ?" 

"Why, that to preserve the religion of the empire such 
beings as she whom you have slain" (her tears interrupted 
her for a moment) "should have to die; while monsters 
who disgrace the shape and name of man should have to 
live and flourish. Oh, sir, you know not what you have 
blotted out from earth this day ! She was the purest, 
sweetest, holiest thing I ever knew upon it, the very flower 
of womanhood, thoug-h yet a child. And she might have 
lived yet, had she not scorned the proffered hand of a vile 
adventurer ; who pursued her with his loathsome offers, into 
the seclusion of her villa, into the sanctuary of her home, 
and even into the last retreat of her dungeon. For this 
she died, that she would not endow with her wealth, and 
ennoble by her alliance, that Asiatic spy." 

She pointed with calm scorn at Fulvius, who bounded 
forward, and exclaimed with fury : " She lies, foully and 
calumniously, sir. Agnes openly confessed herself a Chris- 
tian." 

" Bear with me, sir," replied the lady, with noble dig- 
nity, " while I convict him ; and look on his face for proof 
of what I say. Didst thou not, Fulvius, early this mom- 

Y 



322 

ing, seek that gentle child in her cell, and deliberately tell 
her (for unseen, I heard you) that if she would but accept 
thy hand, not only wouldst thou save her life, but, despis- 
ing - the imperial commands, secure her still remaining a 
Christian?" 

Fulvius stood, pale as death : stood, as one does for a 
moment who is shot through the heart, or struck by lig'ht- 
ning. He looked like a man on whom sentence is going 
to be pronounced, — not of death, but of eternal pillory, as 
the judge addressed him saying : 

" Fulvius, thy very look confirms this grievous charge. 
I could arraign thee on it, for thy head, at once. But 
take my counsel, begone hence for ever. Flee, and hide 
thyself, after such villany. from the indignation of all just 
men, and from the veng-eance of the gods. Show not thy 
face again here, nor in the Forum, nor in any public place 
of Rome. If this lady pleases, even now I will take her 
deposition against thee. Pray, madam," he asked most 
respectfully, "may I have the honour of knowing your 
name ?" 

" Fabiola," she replied. 

The judge was now all complacency, for he saw before 
him, he hoped, his future daughter-in-law. " I have often 
heard of you, madam," he said, "and of your high accom- 
plishments, and exalted virtues. You are, moreover, nearly 
allied to this victim of treachery, and have a right to claim 
her body. It is at your disposal." This speech was inter- 
rupted at its beginning by a loud hiss and yell that accom- 
panied Fulvius's departure. He was pale with shame, ter- 
ror, and rage. 

Fabiola gracefully thanked the prefect, and beckoned 
to Syra, who attended her. The servant again made a 
signal to some one else ; and presently four slaves appeared 
bearing a lady's litter. Fabiola would allow no one but 
herself and Syra to raise the relics from the ground, place 
them on the litter, and cover them with then precious pall. 
" Bear this treasure to its own home," she said, and fol- 
lowed as mourner with her maid. A little girl, all in tears, 
timidly asked if she might join them. " Who art thou V 
asked Fabiola. " I am poor Emerentiana, her foster- 



CH. XXX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 323 

sister," replied the child ; and Fabiola led her kindly by 
the hand. 

The moment the body was removed, a crowd of Chris- 
tians, children, men, and women, threw themselves for- 
ward, with sponges and linen cloths, to gather up the 
blood. In vain did the guards fall on them, with whips, 
cudgels, and even with sharper weapons, so that many 
mingled their own blood with that of the martyr. When a 
sovereign, at his coronation, or on first entering his capital, 
throws, according to ancient custom, handfuls of gold and 
silver coins among the crowd, he does not create a more 
eager competition for his scattered treasures, than there 
was among- those primitive Christians, for what they va- 
lued more than gold or precious stones, the ruby drops 
which a martyr had poured from his heart for his Lord. 
But all respected the prior claim of one ; and here it was 
the deacon Reparatus, who, at risk of life, was present, 
phial in hand, to gather the blood of Ag-nes's testimony; 
that it might be appended, as a faithful seal, to the record 
of martyrdom on her tomb. 



CHAPTER XXX. 

THE SAME DAT : ITS THIBD PART. 



Tertullus hastened at once to the palace : fortunately, 
or unfortunately, for these candidates for martyrdom. 
There he met Corvinus, with the prepared rescript, ele- 
gantly engrossed in uncial, that is, large capita letters. 
He had the privilege of immediate admission into the im- 
perial presence ; and, as a matter of business, reported the 
death of Agnes, exaggerated the public feeling likely to 
be caused by it, attributed it all to the folly and misman- 
agement of Fulvius, whose worst guilt he did not disclose, 
for fear of having to try him, and thus bringing out what 
he was now doing- ; depreciated the value of Ag-nes's pro- 
perty, and ended by saying, that it would be a gracious 
act of clemency, and one sure to counteract unpopular feel- 



324: FABTOLA; OR, 

ings, to bestow it upon her relative, who by settlement was 
her next heir. He described Fabiola as a young- lady of 
extraordinary intellect and wonderful learning - , who was 
most zealously devoted to the worship of the gods, and 
dailv offered sacrifice to the genius of the emperors. 

" I know her," said Maximian, laughing, as if at the 
recollection of something very droll. '' Poor thing! she 
sent me a splendid ring - , and yesterday asked me for that 
wretched Sebastian's life, just as they had finished cudgel- 
ling him to death." And he laughed immoderately, then 
continued : " Yes, yes, by all means ; a little inheritance 
will console her, no doubt, for the loss of that fellow. 
Let a rescript be made out, and I will sign it." 

Tertullus produced tbe one prepared, saying he had 
fully relied on the emperor's magnanimous clemency ; and 
the imperial barbarian put a signature to it which would 
have disgTaced a schoolboy. The prefect at once consigned 
it to his son. 

Scarcely had he left the palace, when Fulvius entered. 
He had been home to put on a proper court attire, and re- 
move from his features, by the bath and the perfumer's 
art, the traces of his morning's passion. He felt a keen 
presentiment that he should be disappointed. Eurotas's 
cool discussion of the preceding - evening, had prepared 
him • the cross of all his designs, and his multiplied disap- 
pointments that day, had strengthened this instinctive con- 
viction. One woman, indeed, seemed born to meet and 
baffle him whichever way he turned ; but, "thank the gods," 
he thought, " she cannot be in my way here. She has this 
morning blasted my character for ever ; she cannot claim 
my rightful reward : she has made me an outcast ; it is 
not in her power to make me a beggar." This seemed his 
only ground of hope. Despair, indeed, urged him forward; 
and he determined to ararue out his claims to the conns- 
cated property of Agues, with the only competitor he could 
fear, the rapacious emperor himself. He might as well 
risk his life over it, for if he failed, he was utterly ruined. 
After waiting some time, he entered the audience-hall, and 
advanced with the blandest smile that he could muster to 
the imperial feet. 



CH. XXX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 325 

" What want you here ?" was his first greeting. 

" Sire," he replied, " I have come humbly to pray 
your royal justice, to order my being put into immediate 
possession of my share of the Lady Agnes's property. 
She has been convicted of being a Christian upon my ac- 
cusation, and she has just suffered the merited penalty of 
all who disobey the imperial edicts." 

" That is all quite right ; but we have heard how stu- 
pidly you mismanaged the whole business as usual, and 
have raised murmurings and discontent in the people 
against us. So, now, the sooner you quit our presence, 
palace, and city, the better for yourself. Do you under- 
stand? We don't usually give such warnings twice." 

" I will obey instantly every intimation of the supreme 
will. But I am almost destitute. Command what of 
right is mine to be delivered over to me, and I part im- 
mediately." 

" .So more words," replied the tyrant, " but go at 
once. As to the property which you demand with so 
much pertinacity, you cannot have it. We have made 
over the whole of it, by an irrevocable rescript, to an ex- 
cellent and deserving person, the Lady Fabiola." 

Pulvius did not speak another word; but kissed the 
emperor's hand and slowly retired. He looked a ruined, 
broken man. He was only heard to say, as he passed out 
of the gate : " Then, after all, she has made me a beggar 
too." When he reached home, Eurotas, who read his an- 
swer in his nephew's eye, was amazed at his calmness. 

" I see," he drily remarked, " it is all over." 

" Yes ; are your preparations made, Eurotas ?" 

" Nearly so. I have sold the jewels, furniture, and 
slaves, at some loss ; but, with the trifle I had in hand, we 
have enough to take us safe to Asia. I have retained 
Stabio, as the most trusty of our servants ; he will carry 
our small travelling requisites on his horse. Two others 
are preparing for you and me. I have only one thing 
more to get for our journey, and then I am ready to start." 

" Pray what is that .'"' 

" The poison. I ordered it last night, but it will only 
be ready at noon." 



326 

"What is that for?" asked Fulvius, with some alarm. 

" Surely you know," rejoined the other, unmoved. " I 
am willing- to make one more trial any where else ; but 
our bargain is clear; my father's family must not end in 
beggary. It must be extinguished in honour." 

Fulvius bit his lip, and said, " Well, be it as you like ; 
I am weary of life. Leave the house as soon as possible, 
for fear of Ephraim, and be with your horses at the third 
mile on the Latin gate soon after dusk. I will join you 
there. For I, too, have an important matter to transact 
before I start." 

"And what is that?" asked Eurotas, with a rather 
keen curiosity. 

" I cannot tell even you. But if I am not with you 
by two hours after sunset, give me up, and save yourself 
without me." 

Eurotas fixed upon him his cold dark eye, with one of 
those looks which ever read Fulvius through ; to see if he 
could detect any lurking idea of escape from his gripe. 
But his look was cool and unusually open, and the old 
man asked no more. While this dialogue was going* on, 
Fulvius had been divesting- himself of his court garments, 
and attiring- himself in a travelling suit. So completely 
did he evidently prepare himself for his journey, without 
necessity of returning home, that he even took his weapons 
with him ; besides his sword, securing in his girdle, but 
concealed under his cloak, one of those curved dag-gers, 
of highest temper and most fatal form, which were only 
known in the East. 

Eurotas proceeded at once to the Numidian quarters 
in the palace, and asked for Jubala ; who entered with two 
small flasks of different sizes, and was just going to give 
some explanations, when her husband, half-drunk, half- 
furious, was seen approaching. Eurotas had just time to 
conceal the flasks in his belt, and slip a coin into her hand, 
when Hypbax came up. His wife had mentioned to him 
the offers which Eurotas had made to her before marriage, 
and had excited in his hot African blood a jealousy that 
amounted to hatred. The savage rudely thrust his wife 
out of the apartment, and would have picked a quarrel 



CH. XXX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 337 

with the Syrian ; had not the latter, his purpose being 
accomplished, acted with forbearance, assured the archer- 
chief that he should never more see him, and retired. 

It is time, however, that we return to Fahiola. The 
reader is probably prepared to hear us say, that she re- 
turned home a Christian : and yet it was not so. For 
what as yet did she know of Christianity, to be said to pro- 
fess it ? In Sebastian and Agnes she had indeed willingly 
admired the virtue, unselfish, generous, and more than 
earthly, which now she was ready to attribute to that 
faith. She saw that it gave motives of actions, principles 
of life, elevation of mind, courage of conscience, and deter- 
mination of virtuous will, such as no other system of be- 
lief ever bestowed. And even if, as she now shrewdly 
suspected, and intended in calmer moments to ascertain, 
the sublime revelations of Syra, concerning an unseen 
sphere of virtue, and its all-seeing Ruler, came from the 
same source, to what did it all amount more than to a 
grand moral and intellectual system, partly practical, 
partly speculative, as all codes of philosophic teaching 
were ? This was a very different thing from Christianity. 
She had as yet heard nothing of its real and essential doc- 
trines, its fathomless, yet accessible, depths of mystery ; 
the awful, vast, and heaven-high structure of faith, which 
the simplest soul may contain; as a child's eye will take in 
the perfect reflection and counterpart of a mountain, thoug'h 
a giant cannot scale it. She had never heard of a God, One 
in Trinity ; of the coequal Son incarnate for man. She 
had never been told of the marvellous history, of Redemp- 
tion by God's sufferings and death. She had not heard 
of Nazareth, or Bethlehem, or Calvary. How could she 
call herself a Christian, or be one, in ignorance of ail 
this? 

How many names had to become familiar and sweet to 
her which as yet were unknown, or barbarous — Mary, Jo- 
seph, Peter, Paul, and John ? Not to mention the sweetest 
of all, His, whose name is balm to the wounded heart, or as 
honey dropping from the broken honeycomb. And how 
much had she yet to learn about the provision for salvation 
on earth, in the Church, in grace, in sacraments, in prayer, 



328 FABIOLA ; OR, 

in love, in charity to others ! What unexplored regions 
lay beyond the small tract which she had explored ! 

No ; Fahiola returned home, exhausted almost by the 
preceding- day and night, and the sad scenes of the morn- 
ing, and retired to her own apartment, no longer perhaps 
even a philosopher, yet not a Christian. She desired all 
her servants to keep away from the court which she oc- 
cupied, that she might not be disturbed by the smallest 
noise ; and she forbade any one to have access to her. 
There she sat in loneliness and silence, for several hours, too 
excited to obtain rest from slumber. She mourned long' over 
Agnes, as a mother might over a child suddenly carried 
off. Yet, was there not a ting - e of light upon the cloud 
that overshadowed her, more than when it hung over her 
father's bier? Did it not seem to her an insult to reason, 
an outrage to humanity, to think that she had perished ; 
that she had been permitted to walk forward in her bright 
robe, and with her smiling countenance, and with her joy- 
ous, simple heart, straight on — into nothing ; that she had 
been allured by conscience, and justice, and purity, and 
truth, on, on, till with arms outstretched to embrace them, 
she stepped over a precipice, beneath which yawned anni- 
hilation ? No. Agnes, she felt sure, was happy some- 
how, somewhere; or justice was a senseless word. 

" How strange," she further thought, " that every one 
whom I have known endowed with superior excellence, men 
like Sebastian, women like Agnes, should turn out to have 
belonged to the scorned race of Christians ! One only re- 
mains, and to-morrow I will interrogate her." 

When she turned from these, and looked round upon 
the heathen world, Fulvius, Tertullus, the Emperor, Cal- 
purnius, — nay, she shuddered as she surprised herself on the 
point of mentioning her own father's name — it sickened her 
to see the contrast of baseness with nobleness, vice with 
virtue, stupidity with wisdom, and the sensual with the 
spiritual. Her mind was thus being shaped into a mould, 
which some form of practical excellence must be found 
to fill, or it must be broken ; her soul was craving as a 
parched soil, which heaven must send its waters to refresh, 
or it must become an eternal desert. 



CH. XXX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 329 

Agnes, surely, "well deserved the glory of gaining - , by 
her death, her kinswoman's conversion; but was there not 
one, more humble, who had established a prior claim ? One 
who had given up freedom, and offered life, for this un- 
selfish gain? 

While Fabiola was alone and desolate, she was dis- 
turbed by the entrance of a stranger, introduced under the 
ominous title of " A messenger from the emperor." The 
porter had at first denied him admittance ; but upon being 
assured that he bore an important embassy f -, om the sove- 
reign, he felt obliged to inquire from the steward what to 
do; when he was informed that no one with such a claim 
could be refused entrance. 

Fabiola was amazed, and her displeasure was somewhat 
mitigated, by the ridiculous appearance of the person de- 
puted in such a solemn character. It was Corvinus, who 
with clownish grace approached her, and in a studied 
speech, evidently got up very floridly, and intrusted to a 
bad memory, laid at her feet an imperial rescript, and his 
own sincere affection, the Lady Agnes's estates, and his 
clumsy hand. Fabiola could not at all comprehend the 
connection between the two combined presents, and never 
imagined that the one was a bribe for the other. So she 
desired him to return her humble thanks to the emperor 
for his gracious act ; adding - , " Say that I am too ill to- 
day to present myself, and do him homage." 

" But these estates, you are aware, were forfeited and 
confiscated," he gasped out in great confusion, " and my 
father has obtained them for you." 

" That was unnecessary," said Fabiola, "for they were 
settled on me long ago, and became mine the moment" — 
she faltered, and after a strong: effort at self-masterv, she 
continued — " the moment they ceased to be another's : 
they did not fall under confiscation." 

Corvinus was dumb-foundered : at last he stumbled 
into something, meant for an humble petition to be ad- 
mitted as an aspirant after her hand, but understood by 
Fabiola to be a demand of recompense, for procuring or 
bringing so important a document. She assured him that 
every claim he might have on her should be fully and 



330 fabiola; ok, 

honourably considered at a more favourable moment ; but 
as she was exceedingly wearied and unwell, she must beg 
him to leave her at present. He did so quite elated, fancy- 
ing that he had secured his prize. 

After he was gone, she hardly looked at the parch- 
ment, which he had left open on a small table by her 
couch, but sat musing on the sorrowful scenes she had wit- 
nessed ; till it wanted about an hour to sunset. Sometimes 
her reveries turned to one point, sometimes to another of 
the late events ; and, at last, she was dwelling on her being 
confronted with Fulvius, that morning, in the Forum. Her 
memory vividly replaced the entire scene before her, and 
her mind gradually worked itself into a state of painful ex- 
citement, which she at length checked by saying" aloud to 
herself : " Thank heaven ! I shall never behold that villain's 
face again." 

The words were scarcely out of her mouth, when she 
shaded her eyes with her hand, as she raised herself up on 
her couch, and looked towards the door. Was it her over- 
heated fancy which beguiled her, or did her wakeful eyes 
show her a reality? Her ears decided the question, by 
these words which they heard. 

" Pray, madam, who is the man whom you honour 
by that gracious speech ?" 

" You, Fulvius," she said, rising with dignity. " A 
further intruder still ; not only into the house, the villa, 
and the dungeon, but into the most secret apartments of a 
lady's residence ; and what is worse, into the house of sor- 
row of one whom you have bereaved. Begone at once, or 
I will have you ignominiously expelled hence." 

" Sit down and compose yourself, lady," rejoined the 
intruder ; " this is my last visit to you ; but we have a 
reckoning to make together of some weight. As to cry- 
ing out, or bringing in help, you need not trouble yourself; 
your orders to your servants, to keep aloof, have been too 
well obeyed. There is no one within call." 

It was true. Fulvius found the way prepared unwit- 
tingly for him by Corvinus ; for upon presenting himself 
at the door, the porter, who had seen him twice dine at the 
house, told him of the strict orders given, and assured him 



CH. XXX.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 331 

that he could not be admitted unless he came from the em- 
peror, for such were his instructions. That, Fulvius said, 
was exactly his case; and the porter, wondering- that so 
many imperial messengers should come in one day, let him 
pass. He begged that the door might be left unfastened, 
in case the porter should not be at his post when he re- 
tired ; for he was in a hurry, and should not like to disturb 
the house, in such a state of grief. He added, that he re- 
quired no guide, for he knew the way to Fabiola's apartment. 

Fulvius seated himself opposite to the lady, and con- 
tinued : 

" You ought not to be offended, madam, with my un- 
expectedly coming upon you, and overhearing your ami- 
able soliloquies about myself; it is a lesson I learnt from 
yourself in the Tullian prison. But I must beg-in my 
scores from an earlier date. When, for the first time, I 
was invited by your worthy father to his table, I met 
one, whose looks and words at once gained my affections, 
— I need not now mention her name, — and whose heart, 
with instinctive sympathy, returned them." 

" Insolent man !" Fabiola exclaimed, " to allude to 
such a topic here ; it is false, that any such affection ever 
existed on either side." 

" As to the Lady Agues," resumed Fulvius, " I have 
the best authority, that of your lamented parent, who 
more than once encouraged me to persevere in my suit ; 
by assuring me that his cousin had confided to him her 
reciprocating love." 

Fabiola was mortified ; for she now remembered that 
this was too true, from the hints which Fabius had given 
her, of his stupid misunderstanding. 

" I know well, that my dear father was under a delu- 
sion upon this subject; but I, from whom that dear child 
concealed nothing- — " 

" Except her religion," interrupted Fulvius, with bit- 
ter irony. 

" Peace!" Fabiola went on; "that word sounds like 
a blasphemy on your lips — I knew that you were but an 
object of loathing and abhorrence to her." 

" Yes, after you had made me such. From that hour 



332 FABIOLA; OR, 

of our first meeting-, yoti became my bitter and unrelenting 
foe, in conspiracy with that treacherous officer, who has 
received his reward, and whom you had destined for the 
place I courted. Repress your indignation, lady, for I mill 
be heard out, — you undermined my character, you poi- 
soned her feelings, and you turned my love into necessary 
enmity." 

" Your love!" now broke in the indignant lady; "even 
if all that you have said were not basely false, what love 
could you have for her ? How could you appreciate her 
artless simplicity, her g-enuine honesty, her rare under- 
standing, her candid innocence, anymore than the wolf can 
value the lamb's gentleness, or the vulture the dove's mild- 
ness ? No, it was her wealth, her family connection, her 
nobility, that you grasped at, and nothing more ; I read it 
in the very flash of your eye, when first it fixed itself, as 
a basilisk's, upon her." 

" It is false !" he rejoined ; " had I obtained my re- 
quest, had I been thus worthily mated, I should have been 
found equal to my position, domestic, contented, and affec- 
tionate ; as worthy of possessing her as — " 

" As any one can be," struck in Fabioh, " who, in 
offering- his hand, expresses himself equally ready, in three 
hours, to espouse or to murder the object of his affection. 
And she prefers the latter, and he keeps his word. Be- 
gone from my presence ; you taint the very atmosphere in 
which you move." 

" I will leave when I have accomplished my task, and 
you will have little reason to rejoice when I do. You have 
then purposely, and unprovoked, blighted and destroyed 
in me every honourable purpose of life, withered my only 
hope, cut me off from rank, society, respectable ease, and 
domestic happiness. 

" That was not enough. After acting in that charac- 
ter, with which you summed up my condemnation, of 
a spy, and listened to my conversation, you this morning 
threw off all sense of female propriety, and stood forward 
prominently in the Forum, to complete in public what you 
had begun in private, excite against me the supreme tribu- 
nal, and through it the emperor, and arouse an unjust 



CH. XXX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 333 

popular outcry and vengeance ; such as, but for a feeling- 
stronger than fear, which brings me hither, would make 
me now skulk, like a hunted wolf, till I could steal out of 
the nearest gate." 

"And, Fulvius, I tell you," interposed Fabiola, "that 
the moment you cross its threshold, the average of virtue 
will be raised in this wicked city. Again I bid you de- 
part from my house, at least ; or at any rate I will with- 
draw from this offensive intrusion." 

" We part not yet, lady," said Fulvius, whose counte- 
nance had been growing every moment more flushed, as 
his lips had been becoming more deadly pale. He rudely 
grasped her arm, and pushed her back to her seat ; " and 
beware," he added, " how you attempt again either to 
escape or to bring aid ; your first cry will be your last, 
cost me what it may. 

" You have made me, then, an outcast, not only from 
society but from Rome, an exile, a houseless wanderer on 
a friendless earth; was not that enough to satisfy your 
vengeance ? No : you must needs rob me of my gold, 
of my rightfully, though painfully earned wealth ; peace, 
reputation, my means of subsistence, all you have stolen 
from me, a youthful stranger." 

" Wicked and insolent man !" exclaimed now the in- 
dignant Roman lady, reckless of consequences, " you shall 
answer heavily for your temerity. Dare you, in my own 
house, call me a thief?" 

" I dare ; and I tell you this is your day of reckoning - , 
and not mine. I have earned, even if by crime it is 
nothing to you, my full share of your cousin's confiscated 
property. I have earned it hardly, by pangs and rend- 
ings of the heart and soul, by sleepless nights of strug- 
gles with fiends that have conquered; ay, and with one 
at home that is sterner than they; by days and days 
of restless search for evidence, amidst the desolation of 
a proud, but degraded spirit. Have I not a right to 
enjoy it? 

" Ay, call it what you will, call it my blood-money ; 
the more infamous it is, the more base in you to step in 
and snatch it from me. It is like a rich man tearing the 



334 fabiola; or, 

carrion from the hound's jaws, after he has swollen his 
feet and rent his shin in hunting- it down." 

" I will not seek for further epithets by which to call 
you ; your mind is deluded by some vain dream," said 
Fabiola, with an earnestness not untinged with alarm. She 
felt she was in the presence of a madman, one in whom 
violent passion, carried off by an unchecked, deeply-moved 
fancy, was lashing itself up to that intensity of wicked ex- 
citement, which constitutes a moral phrenzy, — when the 
very murderer thinks himself a virtuous aveng'er. " Ful- 
vius," she continued, with studied calmness, and looking* 
fully into his eyes, " I now entreat you to g'o. If you 
want money, you shall have it; but go, in heaven's name 
go, before you destroy your reason by your anger." 

" What vain fancy do you mean V asked Fulvius. 

" Why, that I should have ever dreamt about Agnes's 
wealth or property on such a day, or should have taken 
any advantage of her cruel death." 

" And yet it is so ; I have it from the emperor's 
mouth that he has made it over to you. Will you pre- 
tend to make me believe, that this most generous and lib- 
eral prince ever parted with a penny unsolicited, ay, or 
unbribed?" 

" Of this I know nothing. But I know, that I would 
rather have died of want than petitioned for a farthing of 
such property!" 

" Then would you make me rather believe, that in this 
city there is any one so disinterested as, undesired, to have 
petitioned for you ? No, no, Lady Fabiola, all this is too 
incredible. But what is that?" And he pounced with 
eagerness on the imperial rescript, which had remained un- 
looked at, since Corvinus had left it. The sensation to 
him was like that of iEneas when he saw Pallas' s belt upon 
the body of Turnus. The fury, which seemed to have 
been subdued by his subtlety, as he had been reasoning to 
prove Fabiola g"uilty, flashed up anew at the sight of this 
fatal document. He eyed it for a minute, then broke out, 
gnashing his teeth with rage : 

" Now, madam, I convict you of baseness, rapacity, 
and unnatural cruelty, far beyond any thing you have 



CH. XXX.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 385 

dared to charge on me ! Look at this rescript, beautifully 
engrossed, with its golden letters and emblazoned margins"; 
and presume to say that it was prepared in the one hour 
that elapsed between your cousin's death, and the empe- 
ror's telling me that he had signed it t A' or do you pretend 
to know the generous friend who procmed you the gift. 
Bah! while Agues was in prison at latest; while you 
were whining- and moaning - over her ; whde you were re- 
proaching" me for cruelty and treachery towards her, — me, 
a stranger and alien to her ! you, the gentle lady, the vir- 
tuous phdosopher, the loving - , fondling kinswoman, you, 
my stern reprover, were coolly plotting - to take advan- 
tage of my crime, for securing - her property, and seeking 
out the elegant scribe, who should gild your covetousness 
with his pencil, and paint over your treason to your own 
flesh and blood, with his blushing minium."* 

" Cease, madman, cease !" exclaimed Fabiola, endea- 
vouring in vain to master his glaring eye. But he went 
on, in still wilder tone : 

" And then, forsooth, when you have thus basely robbed 
me, you offer me money. You have out-plotted me, and 
you pity me! You have made me a beggar, and then 
you offer me alms, — alms out of my own wages, the 
wages which even hell allows its fated victims while on 
earth !" 

Pabiola rose again, but he seized her with a maniac's 
gripe, and this time did not let her go. He went on : 

" Now listen to the last words that I will speak, or 
they may be the last that you will hear. Give back to 
me that unjustly obtr.ined property; it is not fair that I 
should have the guilt, and you its reward. Transfer it by 
your sign manual to me as a free and loving gift, and I 
will depart. If not, you have signed your own doom." 
A stern and menacing - glance accompanied these words. 

Fabiola' s haughty self rose again erect within her; her 
Roman heart, unsubdued, stood mm. Danger only made 
her fearless. She gathered her robe with matronly dignity 
around her, and replied : 

* P.ed paint. 



336 FABI0LA; OR, 

" Fulvius, listen to my words, though they should be 
the last that I may speak- as certainly they shall be the 
last that you shall hear from me. 

" Surrender this property to you ? I would give it wil- 
lingly to the first leper that I might meet in the street, 
but to you never. Never shall you touch thing that be- 
longed to that holy maiden, be it a gem or be it a straw ! 
That touch would be pollution. Take gold of mine, if it 
please you; but any thing 1 that ever belonged to her, from 
me no treasures can ransom. And one legacy I prize more 
than all her inheritance. You have now offered me two 
alternatives, as last night you did her, to yield to your 
demands, or die. Agnes taught me which to choose. 
Once again, I say, depart." 

" And leave you to possess what is mine 1 leave you 
to triumph over me, as one whom you have outwitted — 
you honoured, and I disgraced — you rich, and I penniless 
— you happy, and I wretched ? No, never ! I cannot 
save myself from what you have made me; but I can 
prevent your being what you have no right to be. For 
this I have come here ; this is my day of Nemesis.* Now 
die !" While he was speaking these reproaches, he was 
slowly pushing her backwards with his left hand towards 
the couch from which she had risen ; while his right was 
tremblingly feeling for something in the folds of his 
bosom. 

As he finished his last word, he thrust her violently 
down upon the couch, and seized her by the hair. She 
made no resistance, she uttered no cry ; partly a fainting 
and sickening sensation came over her; partly a noble 
feeling- of self-respect checked any unseemly exhibition of 
fear, before a scornful enemy. Just as she closed her eyes, 
she saw something like lightning above her ; she could 
not tell whether it was his glaring eye or flashing steel. 

In another moment she felt oppressed and suffocated, 
as if a great weight had fallen upon her; and a hot stream 
was flowing over her bosom. 

A sweet voice full of earnestness sounded in her ears : 

* Revenge. 



CH. XXXI.j THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 



337 



" Cease, Orontius ; I am thy sister Miriam !" 

Fulvius, in accents choked by passion, replied : 

'' It is lake ; give me up my prey !" 

A few words more were faintly spoken in a tongue 
unknown to Fabiola; when she felt her hair released, 
heard the dagger dashed to the ground, and Fulvius cry 
out bitterlv,. as he rushed out of the room : 

" Christ ! this is Thy Nemesis !" 

Fabiola' s strength was returning ; but she felt the 
weight upon her increase. She struggled, and released 
herself. Another body was lying in her place, apparently 
dead, and covered with blood. 

It was the faithful Syra, who had thrown herself be- 
tween her mistress's life and her brother's dagger.. 



CHAPTER XXXL 



AIONYCIOY 

IATPOY 

TTP€CBYT€POY 



The great thoughts, which this occurrence would naturally 
have suggested to the noble heart of Fabiola, were sup- 
pressed, for a time, by the exigencies of the moment. Her 
first care was to stanch the flowing blood with whatever 
was nearest at hand. While she was engaged in this 
work, there was a general rush of servants towards her 
apartment. The stupid porter had begun to be uneasy 
at Fulvius's long stay (the reader has now heard his real 
name), when he saw him dash out of the door like a 
maniac, and thoug'ht he perceived stains of blood upon his 
garment. He immediately gave the alarm to the entire 
household. 

* " [The tomb] of Dionysius, physician [and] priest," lately found 
at the entrance to the crypt of St. Cornelius, in the cemetery of 



Callistus. 



7. 



338 fabiola; or, 

Fabiola by a gesture stopped the crowd at the door of 
her room, and desired only Euphrosyne and her Greek 
maid to enter. The latter, since the influence of the black 
slave had been removed, had attached herself most affec- 
tionately to Syra, as we must still call her, and had, with 
great docility, listened to her moral instructions. A slave 
was instantly despatched for the physician who had always 
been sent for by Syra in illness, Dionysius, who, as we 
have already observed, lived in the house of Agues. 

In the meantime, Fabiola had been overjoyed at find- 
ing* the blood cease to flow so rapidly, and still more at 
seeing her servant open her eyes upon her, though only 
for a moment. She would not have exchanged for any 
wealth the sweet smile which accompanied that look. 

In a few minutes, the kind physician arrived. He care- 
fully examined the wound, and pronounced favourably 
on it for the present. The blow, as aimed, would have 
gone straight to Fabiola' s heart. But her loving servant, 
in spite of prohibition, had been hovering near her mis- 
tress during the whole day ; never intruding, but anxious 
for any opportunity which might offer, of seconding those 
good impressions of grace, which the morning's scenes 
could not fail to have produced. While in a neighbouring 
room, she heard violent tones which were too familiar to 
her ears ; and hastened noiselessly round, and within the 
curtain which covered the door of Fabiola's own apartment. 
She stood concealed in the dusk, on the very spot where 
Agnes had, a few months before, consoled her. 

She had not been there long, when the last struggle 
commenced. While the man was pushing her mistress 
backwards, she followed him close behind ; and as he was 
lifting" his arm, passed him, and threw her body over that of 
his victim. The blow descended, but misdirected, through 
the shock she gave his arm ; and it fell upon her neck, 
where it inflicted a deep wound, checked, however, by en- 
countering the collar-bone. We need not say what it cost 
her to make this sacrifice. Not the dread of pain, nor the 
fear of death coidd for a moment have deterred her ; it was 
the horror of imprinting on her brother's brow the mark 
of Cain, the making him doubly a fratricide, which deeply 



OH. XXXI.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 339 

anguished her. But she had offered her life for her mis- 
tress. To have fought with the assassin, whose strength 
and agility she knew, would have heen useless ; to try to 
alarm the house before one fatal blow was struck was 
hopeless; and nothing remained but to accomplish her im- 
molation, by substituting herself for the intended victim. 
Still she wished to spare her brother the consummation of 
his crime, and in doing so manifested to Fabiola their 
relationship and their real names. 

In his blind fury he refused her credit ; but the words, 
in their native tong-ue, which said, " Remember my scarf 
which you picked up here," brought back to his memory 
so terrible a domestic tale, that had the earth opened a 
cavern in that moment before his feet, he would have leapt 
into it, to bury his remorse and shame. 

Strange, too, it proved, that he should not have ever 
allowed Eurotas to get possession of that family relic, but 
should, ever since he regained it, have kept it apart as a 
sacred thing ; and, when all else was being packed up, 
should have folded it up and put it in his breast. And 
now, in the act of drawing out his eastern dagger, he had 
plucked this out too, and both were found upon the floor. 

Dionysius, immediately after dressing the wound, and 
administering proper restoratives, which brought back con- 
sciousness, desired the patient to be left perfectly quiet, 
to see as few persons as possible, so as to prevent excite- 
ment, and to go on with the treatment which he prescribed 
until midnight. " I will call," he added, " very early in 
the morning, when I must see my patient alone." He 
whispered a few words in her ear, which seemed to do her 
more good than all his medicines; for her countenance 
brightened into an angelic smile. 

Fabiola had her placed in her own bed, and, allotting 
to her attendants the outward room, reserved to herself 
exclusively the privilege, as she deemed it, of nursing the 
servant, to whom a few months before she could hardly 
feel grateful for having tended her in fever. She had 
informed the others how the wound had been inflicted, 
concealing the relationship between her assailant and her 
deliverer- 



340 

Although herself exhausted and feverish, she would 
not leave the bedside of the patient ; and when midnight 
was past, and no more remedies had to be administered, 
she sank to rest upon a low couch close to the bed. And 
now what were her thoughts, when, in the dim light of a 
sick-room, she opened her mind and heart to them ? They 
were simple and earnest. She saw at once the reality and 
truth of all that her servant had ever spoken to her. When 
she last conversed with her, the principles which she heard 
with delight, had appeared to her wholly beyond practice, 
beautiful theories, which could not be brought to action. 
When Miriam had described a sphere of virtue, wherein 
no approbation or reward of man was to be expected, but 
only the approving eye of God, she had admired the 
idea, which powerfully seized her generous mind ; but she 
had rebelled against its becoming the constraining rule of 
hourly conduct. Yet, if the stroke under which she cast 
herself had proved fatal, as it might easily have done, 
where wotild have been her reward ? What, then, could 
have been her motive but that very theory, as it seemed, 
of responsibility to an unseen power ? 

And when Miriam had discoursed of heroism in virtue 
as being its ordinary standard, how chimerical the prin- 
ciple had seemed ! Yet here, without preparation, without 
forethought, without excitement, without glory, — nay, with 
marked desire of concealment, this slave had performed a 
deed of self-sacrifice, heroic in every way. From what 
could that result, but from habitual heroism of virtue, 
ready at any horn' to do what would ennoble for ever a 
soldier's name? She was no dreamer, then, no theorist, 
but a serious, real practiser of all that she taught. Could 
this be a philosophy? Oh, no, it must be a religion ! the 
religion of Agues and of Sebastian, to whom she considered 
Miriam every way equal. How she longed to converse 
with her again ! 

Early in the morning, according to his promise, the 
physician returned, and found his patient much improved. 
He desired to be left alone with her; when, having spread 
a linen cloth upon the table, and placed lighted tapers 
upon it, he drew from his bosom an embroidered scarf, 



CH. XXXI.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 341 

and uncovered a golden box, the sacred contents of which 
she well knew. Approaching her he said, 

" My dear child, as I promised you, I have now brought 
you not merely the truest remedy of every ailment, bodily 
and spiritual, but the very Physician Himself, who by His 
word alone restoreth all things,* whose touch opens the 
eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf, whose will 
cleanses lepers, the hem of whose garment sends forth 
virtue to cure all. Are you ready to receive Him ;"' 

" With all my heart," she replied, clasping her hands ; 
" I long- to possess Him whom alone I have loved, in whom 
I have believed, to whom my heart belongs." 

" Does no ang-er or indignation exist in vour soul 
against him who has injured you? does any pride or 
vanity arise in your mind at the thought of what you have 
done'!* or are you conscious of any other fault requiring 
humble confession and absolution before receiving the sa- 
cred gift into your breast V 

" Fidl of imperfection and sin I know myself to be, 
venerable father ; but I am not conscious of any knowing 
offence. I have had no need to forgive him to whom you 
allude ; I love him too much for that, and would willingly 
give my life to save him. And of what have I to be proud, 
a poor servant, who have only obeyed my Lord's com- 
mands ?" 

" Invite, then, my child, this Lord into your house, that 
coming He may heal you, and fill you with His grace." 

Approaching the table, he took from it a particle of the 
Blessed Eucharist, in the form of unleavened bread, which, 
being- dry, he moistened in water, and placed within her 
lips.f She closed them upon it, and remained for some 
time absorbed in contemplation. 

And thus did the holy Dionysius discharge his two- 
fold office of physician and priest, attributed to him on his 
tomb. 

* " Qui verbo suo instaurat universa," The Breviary. 

t Eusebius, in his account of Serapion, teaches us that this was 
the manner of administering Holy Communion to the sick, without 
the cup, or under only one kind. 



342 fabiola; or, 



CHAPTER XXXII. 

THE SACRIFICE ACCEPTED. 

Through the whole of that day the patient seemed oc- 
cupied with deep, but most pleasing', thoughts. Fabiola, 
who never left her, except for moments to give necessary 
directions, watched her countenance with a mixture of awe 
and delight. It appeared as if her servant's mind were 
removed from surrounding- objects, and conversing' in a 
totally different sphere. Now a smile passed like a sun- 
beam across her features, now a tear trembled in her eye, 
or flowed down her cheeks; sometimes her pupils were 
raised and kept fixed on heaven for a considerable time, 
while a blissful look of perfect and calm enjoyment sat 
unvarying 1 upon her; and then she would turn round with 
an expression of infinite tenderness towards her mistress, 
and hold out her hand to be clasped in hers. And Fa- 
biola could sit tlras for hours in silence, which was as yet 
prescribed ; feeling- it an honour, and thinking- it did her 
good, to be in contact with such a rare type of virtue. 

At length, in the course of the day, after giving her 
patient some nourishment, she said to her, smiling: "I 
think you are much better, Miriam, already. Your phy- 
sician must have given you some wonderful medicine." 

" Indeed he has, my dearest mistress." 

Fabiola was evidently pained; and leaning over her, 
said softly : " Oh, do not, I entreat you, call me by such a 
title. If it has to be used, it should be by me towards 
you. But, in fact, it is no longer true ; for what I long 
intended has now been done ; and the instrument of your 
liberation bas been ordered to be made out, not as a freed- 
woman, but as an mgmua f for such I know you are." 

Miriam looked her thanks, for fear of further hurting 

* Persons freed from slavery retained the title of freedman or 
freeduoman (libertvs, liberta) of the person to whom they had be- 
longed, as " of Augustus." If they had belonged originally to a 
free class, they were liberated as ingenuus or ingenua (well-born), 
and restored by emancipation to that class. 



CH. XXXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 343 

Fabiola's feelings ; and they continued to be happy toge- 
ther in silence. 

Towards evening Dionysius returned, and found so 
great an improvement, that, ordering more nourishing food, 
he permitted a little quiet conversation. 

" I must now," said Fabiola, so soon as they were 
alone, "fulfil the first duty, which my heart has been 
burning to discharge, that of thanking you, — I wish I 
knew a stronger word, — not for the life w r hich you have 
saved me, but for the magnanimous sacrifice which you 
made for it — and, let me add, the unequalled example of 
heroic virtue, which aloue inspired it." 

" After all, what have I done, but simple duty ? You 
had a right to my life, for a much less cause than to save 
yours," answered Miriam. 

" No doubt," responded Fabiola, " it appears so to you, 
who have been trained to the doctrine which overpowered 
me, that the most heroic acts ought to be considered by 
men as performances of ordinary duties." 

" And thereby," rejoined Miriam, "they cease to be 
what } T ou have called them." 

"No, no," exclaimed Fabiola, with enthusiasm; "do 
not try to make me mean and vile to my own heart, by 
teaching me to undervalue what I cannot but prize as an 
unrivalled act of virtue. I have been reflecting on it, 
night and day r , since I witnessed it; and my heart has 
been y r earning to speak to j r ou of it, and even yet I dare 
not, or I should oppress your weakness with my over- 
charged feelings. It was noble, it was grand, it was be- 
yond all reach of praise ; though I know you do not want it. 
I cannot see any way in which the sublimeness of the act 
could have been enhanced, or human virtue rise one step 
higher." 

Miriam, who was now raised to a reclining position, 
took Fabiola's hand between both hers; and turning round 
towards her, in a soft and mild, but most earnest tone, 
thus addressed her. 

" Good and gentle lady, for one moment listen to me. 
Not to depreciate what you are good enough to value, 
since it pains you to hear it, but to teach y r ou how far we 



344 fabiola; or, 

still are from what might have been done, let me trace for 
you a parallel scene, hut where all shall be reversed. Let 
it he a slave — pardon me, dear Fabiola, for another pang 
— I see it in yotu* face, but it shall be the last — yes, 
a slave brutish, ungrateful, rebellious to the most benign 
and generous of masters. And let the stroke, not of an 
assassin, but of the minister of justice, impend over his 
head. What would you call the act, how would you cha- 
racterise the virtue, of that master, if out of pure love, and 
that he might reclaim that wretched man, he should rush 
beneath the axe's blow, ay, and its preceding' ignominious 
stripes, and leave written in his will, that he made that 
slave hen to his titles and his wealth, and desired him to 
be considered as his brother ?" 

" Miriam, Miriam, you have drawn a picture too 
sublime to be believed of man. You have not eclipsed 
your own deed, for I spoke of human virtue. To act as 
you have now described, would require, if possible, that of 
a God !" 

Miriam pressed the folded hand to her bosom, fixed on 
Fabiola' s wondering eyes a look of heavenly inspiration, as 
she sweetly and solemnly replied : " And Jesus Christ, 

WHO DID ALL THIS FOR MA>', WAS TRULY GoD." 

Fabiola covered her face with both her hands, and for 
a long time was silent. Miriam prayed earnestly in her 
own tranquil heart. 

" Miriam, I thank you from my soul," at length Fa- 
biola said; " you have fulfilled your promise of guiding me. 
For some time I have only been fearing that you might 
not be a Christian ; but it could not be. 

" Xow tell me, are those awful, but sweet words, which 
you just now uttered, which have sunk into my heart as 
deeply, as silently, and as irrevocably as a piece of gold 
dropt upon the surface of the still ocean, goes down into 
its depths, — are those words a mere part of the Christian 
system, or are they its essential principle 1" 

" From a simple allegory, dear lady, your powerful 
mind has, in one bound, reached and grasped the master- 
key of our whole teaching : the alembic of your refined 
understanding has extracted, and condensed into one 



CH. XXXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 345 

thought, the most vital and prominent doctrines of Chris- 
tianity. You have distilled them into their very essence. 

" That man, God's creature and bondsman, rebelled 
against his Lord; that justice irresistible had doomed, and 
pursued him; that this very Lord ' took the form of a ser- 
vant, and in habit was found like a man;'* that in this 
form He suffered stripes, buffets, mockery, and shameful 
death, became the ' Crucified One,' as men here call him, 
and thereby rescued man from his fate, and gave him part 
in His own riches and kingdom : all this is comprised in 
the words that I have spoken. 

" And you had reached the right conclusion. Only 
God could have performed so godlike an action, or have 
offered so sublime an expiation." 

Fabiola was again wrapped up in silent thought, till 
she timidly asked, — 

" And was it to this that you referred in Campania, 
when you spoke of God alone being a victim worthy of 
God?" 

" Yes ; but I further alluded to the continuation of 
that sacrifice, even in our own days, by a marvellous dis- 
pensation of an all-powerful love. However, on this I must 
not yet speak. 

Fabiola resumed : " I every moment see, how all that 
you have ever spoken to me coheres and fits together, like 
the parts of one plant ; all springing- one from another. I 
thought it bore only the lovely flowers of an elegant theory; 
you have shown me in your conduct how these can ripen 
into sweet and solid fruit. In the doctrine which you have 
just explained, I seem to myself to find the noble stem from 
which all the others branch forth — even to that very fruit. 
For who would refuse to do for another, what is much less 
than God has done for him ? But, Miriam, there is a deep 
and unseen root whence springs all this, possibly dark be- 
yond contemplation, deep beyond reach, complex beyond 
man's power to unravel; yet perhaps simple to a confi ding- 
mind. If, in my present ignorance, I can venture to speak, 
it should be vast enough to occupy all nature, rich enough 
to fill creation with all that is good and perfect in it, strong* 
* Phil. ii. 7. 



346 

enough to bear the growth of your noble tree, till its summit 
reach above the stars, and its branches to the ends of earth. 

" I mean, your idea of that God, whom you made me 
fear, when you spoke to me as a philosopher of Him, and 
taught me to know as the ever-present watchman and 
judge ; but whom I am sure you will make me love when, 
as a Christian, you exhibit Him to me, as the root and 
origin of such boundless tenderness and mercy. 

" Without some deep mystery in His nature, as yet 
unknown to me, I cannot fully apprehend that wonderful 
doctrine of man's purchase." 

" Fabiola," responded Miriam, " more learned teachers, 
than I, should undertake the instruction of one so gifted 
and so acute. But will you believe me, if I attempt to give 
you some explanation V 

" Miriam," replied Fabiola, with strong- emphasis, "one 

WHO IS READY TO DIE FOR ANOTHER, WILL CERTAINLY 
NOT DECEIVE HIM." 

" And now," rejoined the patient, smiling, " you have 
again seized a great principle— that of faith. I will, there- 
fore, be only the simple narrator of what Jesus Christ, who 
truly died for us, has taught us. You will believe my 
word only as that of a faithful witness ; you will accept 
His, as that of an unerring - God." 

Fabiola bowed her head, and listened with reverential 
mind to her, in whom she had long - honoured a teacher of 
marvellous wisdom, which she drew from some unknown 
school ; but whom now she almost worshipped as an angel, 
who could open to her the flood-gates of the eternal ocean, 
whose waters are the unfathomable Wisdom, overflowing 
on earth. 

Miriam expounded, in the simple terms of Catholic 
teaching - , the sublime doctrine of the Trinity ; then after 
relating the fall of man, unfolded the mystery of the Incar- 
nation, giving, in the very words of St. John, the history of 
the Eternal Word, till He was made flesh, and dwelt among - 
men. Often was she interrupted by the expressions of 
admiration or assent which her pupil uttered; never by 
cavil or doubt. Philosophy had given place to religion, 
captiousness to docility, incredulity to faith. 



CH. XXXII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 8-1? 

But now a sadness seemed to have come over Fabi- 
ola's heart : Miriam read it in her looks, and asked her 
its cause. 

" I hardly dare tell you," she replied. " But all that 
you have related to me is so beautiful, so divine, that it 
seems to me necessarily to end here. 

" The Word (what a noble name !), that is, the ex- 
pression of God's love, the externation of His wisdom, the 
evidence of His power, the very breath of His life-giving 
life, which is Himself, becometh flesh. Who shall furnish 
it to Him 1 Shall He take up the cast-off slough of a tainted 
humanity, or shall a new manhood be created expressly for 
Him? Shall He take His place in a double genealogy, 
receiving* thus into Himself a twofold tide of corruption ; 
and shall there be any one on earth daring- and high 
enough to call himself His father?" 

" No," softly whispered Miriam ; "but there shall be 
one holy enough, and humble enough, to be worthy to 
call herself His mother ! 

" Almost 800 years before the Son of God came into 
the world, a prophet spoke, and recorded his words, and 
deposited the record of them in the hands of the Jews, 
Christ's inveterate enemies ; and his words were these : 
' Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His 
name shall be called Emanuel,'* which in the Hebrew lan- 
guage signifies ' God with us,' that is with men. 

" This prophecy was of course fulfilled in the concep- 
tion and birth of God's Son on earth." 

" And who was she?" asked Fabiola, with great rever- 
ence. 

" One whose very name is blessed by every one that 
truly loves her Son. Mary is the name by which you will 
know her : Miriam, its original in her own tongue, is the 
one by which I honour her. Well, you may suppose, was 
she prepared for such high destiny by holiness and virtue ; 
not as cleansed, but as ever clean ; not as purified, but as 
always pure ; not freed, but exempted, from sin. The tide 
of which you spoke, found before her the dam of an eter- 

* Isaias vii. 14. 



348 

nal decree, which could not brook that the holiness of God 
should mingle with what it could only redeem, by keeping 
extraneous to itself. Bright as the blood of Adam, when 
the breath of God sent it sparkling through his veins, pure 
as the flesh of Eve, while standing yet in the mould of the 
Almighty hands, as they drew it from the side of the 
slumbering man, were the blood and the flesh, which the 
Spirit of God formed into the glorious humanity, that Mary 
gave to Jesus. 

" And after this glorious privilege granted to our sex, 
are you surprised that many, like your sweet Agnes, should 
have chosen this peerless Virgin as the pattern of their 
lives ; should find in her, whom God so elected, the model 
of every virtue ; and should, in preference to allowing 
themselves to be yoked, even by the tenderest of ties, to 
the chariot-wheels of this world, seek to fly upwards on 
wings of undivided love like hers ?" 

After a pause and some refection, Miriam proceeded 
briefly to detail the history of our Saviour's birth, His 
laborious youth, His active but suffering public life, and 
then His ignominious Passion. Often was the narrative 
interrupted by the tears and sobs of the willing listener 
and ready learner. At last the time for rest had come, 
when Fabiola humbly asked : 

"Are you too fatigued to answer one question more ?" 

" No," was the cheerful reply. 

"What hope," said Fabiola, "can there be for one 
who cannot say she was ignorant, for she pretended to 
know every thing ; nor that she neglected to learn, for 
she affected eagerness after every sort of knowledge ; but 
can only confess that she scorned the true wisdom, and 
blasphemed its Giver;— for one who has scoffed at the 
very torments which proved the love, and sneered at the 
death which was the ransoming, of Him whom she has 
mocked at, as the ' Crucified V " 

A flood of tears stopped her speech. 

Miriam waited till their relieving flow had subsided 
into that gentler dew which softens the heart; then in 
soothing tones addressed her as follows : 

" In the days of our Lord there lived a woman who 



CH. XXXII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 349 

bore the same name as His spotless Mother; hut she had 
sinned publicly, degradingly, as you, Fabiola, would ab- 
hor to sin. She became acquainted, we know not how, 
with her Redeemer ; in the secrecy of her own heart, she 
contemplated earnestly, till she came to love intensely, His 
gracious and condescending familiarity with sinners, and 
His singular indulgence and forgivingiiess to the fallen. 
She loved and loved still more ; and. forgetting herself, she 
only thought how she might manifest her love, so that it 
might bring honour, however slight, to Him, and shame, 
however great, on herself. 

" She went into the house of a rich man, where the 
usual courtesies of hospitality had been withheld from its 
Divine guest, into the house of a haughty man who 
spurned, in the presumption of his heart, the public sinner; 
she supplied the attentions which had been neglected to 
Him whom she loved ; and she was scorned, as she ex- 
pected, for her obtrusive sorrow." 

" How did she do this, Miriam ?" 

" She knelt at His feet as He sat at table ; she poured 
out upon them a flood of tears ; she wiped them with her 
luxurious hair, she kissed them fervently, and she anointed 
them with rich perfume.'' 

" And what was the result ?" 

" She was defended by Jesus against the carping gibes 
of His host ; she was told that she was forgiven on account 
of her love, and was dismissed with kindest comfort." 

" And what became of her f ' 

" When on Calvary He was crucified, two women 
were privileged to stand close to Him ; Mary the sinless, 
and Mary the penitent : to show how unsullied and repen- 
tant love may walk hand in hand, beside Him who said, 
that He had ' come to call not the just, but sinners to re- 
pentance.' " 

No more was said that night. Miriam, fatigued with her 
exertion, sank into a placid slumber. Fabiola sat by her side, 
filled to her heart's brim with this tale of love. She pon- 
dered over it again and again; and she still saw more and 
more how every part of this wonderful system was consistent. 
For if Miriam had been ready to die for her, in imitation 



850 fabiola; on, 

of her Saviour's love, so had she been as ready to for- 
give her, when she had thoughtlessly injured her. Every 
Christian, she now felt, ought to be a copy, a, representa- 
tive of his Master ; but the one that slumbered so tran- 
quilly beside her was surely true to her model, and might 
well represent Him to her. 

When, after some time, Miriam awoke, she found her 
mistress (for her patent of freedom was not yet completed) 
lying at her feet, over which she had sobbed herself to 
sleep. She understood at once the full meaning and merit 
of this self-humiliation ; she did not stir, but thanked God 
with a full heart that her sacrifice had been accepted. 

Fabiola, on awaking, crept back to her own couch, as 
she thought, unobserved. A. secret, sharp pang it had 
cost her to perform this act of self-abasement ; but she had 
thoroughly humbled the pride of her heart. She felt for 
the first time that her heart was Christian. 



CHAP TEE XXXIII. 

Miriam's histort. 

The next morning, when Dionysius came, he found both 
patient and nurse so radiant and so happy, that he con- 
gratulated them both on having- had a good night's rest. 
Both laughed at the idea ; but concurred in saying that it 
had been the happiest night of their lives. Dionysius was 
surprised, till Miriam, taking the hand of Fabiola, said : 

" Venerable priest of God, I confide to your fatherly 
care this catechumen, who desires to be fully instructed in 
the mysteries of our holy faith, and to be regenerated by 
the waters of eternal salvation." 

" What !" asked Fabiola, amazed, " are you more than 
a physician ?" 

" I am, my child," the old man replied ; " unwor- 
thily I hold likewise the higher office of a priest in God's 
Church." 

Fabiola unhesitatingly knelt before him, and kissed his 



CH. XXXIII.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 851 

hand. The priest placed his right hand upon her head, 
and said to her : 

" Be of good courage, daughter ; you are not the 
first of your house, whom God has brought into His holy 
Church. It is now many years since I was called in here, 
under the guise of a physician, by a former servant, now 
no more ; but in reality it was to baptise, a few hours before 
her death, the wife of Fabius." 

" My mother!" exclaimed Fabiola. " She died immedi- 
ately after giving me birth. And did she die a Christian ?" 

" Yes ; and I doubt not that her spirit has been hov- 
ering about you throug-h life by the side of the angel 
who guards you, g-uiding 1 you unseen to this blessed hour. 
And, before the throne of God, she has been unceasing in 
her supplications on your behalf." 

Joy tenfold filled the breasts of the two friends ; and 
after arrangements had been made with Dionysius for the 
necessary instructions and preparations for Fabiola's ad- 
mission to baptism, she went up to the side of Miriam, 
and taking her hand, said to her in a low, soft voice : 

" Miriam, may I from henceforth call you sister?'' A 
pressure of the hand was the only reply which she could 
give. 

With their mistress, the old nurse, Euphrosyne, and 
the Greek slave, placed themselves, as we now" say, under 
instruction, to receive baptism on Easter-eve. JN or must 
we forget one who was already enrolled in the list of 
catechumens, and whom Fabiola had taken home with 
her and kept, Emerentiana, the foster-sister of Agnes. 
It was her delight to make herself useful, by being the 
ready messenger between the sick-room and the rest of 
the house. 

During her illness, as her strength improved, Miriam 
imparted many particulars of her previous life to Fabiola ; 
and as they will throw some light on our preceding nar- 
rative, we will give her history in a continuous form. 

Some years before our story commenced, there lived in 
Antioch a man who, though not of ancient family, was rich, 
and moved in the highest circles of that most luxurious 
city. To keep his position, he was obliged to indulge in 



352 FABIOLA; OR, 

great expense ; and from want of strict economy, he had 
gradually become oppressed with debt. He was married 
to a lady of great virtue, who became a Christian, at first 
secretly, and afterwards continued so, with her husband's 
reluctant consent. In the meantime, their two children, a 
son and daughter, had received their domestic education 
under her care. The former, Orontius, so called from 
the favourite stream which watered the city, was fifteen 
when his father first discovered his wife's religion. He 
had learnt much from his mother of the doctrines of 
Christianity, and had been with her an attendant on 
Christian worship ; and hence he possessed a dangerous 
knowledge, of whieh he afterwards made so fatal a use. 

But he had not the least inclination to embrace the 
doctrines, or adopt the practices, of Christianity ; nor 
would he hear of preparing for baptism. He was wilful 
and artful, with no love for any restraint upon his passions, 
or for any strict morality. He iooked forward to distinction 
in the world, and to his full share in all its enjoyments. 
He had been, and continued to be, highly educated ; and 
besides the Greek languag-e, then generally spoken at 
Antioch, he was acquainted with Latin, which he spoke 
readily and gracefully, as we have seen, though with a 
slight foreign accent. In the family, the vernacular idiom 
was used with servants, and often in familiar conversa- 
tion. Orontius was not sorry when his father removed 
him from his mother's control, and insisted that he should 
continue to follow the dominant and favoured religion of 
the state. 

As to the daughter, who was three years younger, he 
did not so much care. He deemed it foolish and un- 
manly to take much trouble about religion ; to change it 
especially, or abandon that of the empire, was, he thought, 
a sign of weakness. But women being more imaginative, 
and more under the sway of the feelings, might be in- 
dulged in any fancies of this sort. Accordingly he per- 
mitted his daughter Miriam, whose name was Syrian, as 
the mother belonged to a rich family from Edessa, to con- 
tinue in the free exercise of her new faith. She became, 
in addition to her high mental cultivation, a model of vir- 



CH. XXXIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 853 

tue, simple and unpretending - . It was a period, we may 
observe, in which the city of Antioch was renowned for the 
learning- of its philosophers, some of whom were eminent 
as Christians. 

A few years later, when the son had reached manhood, 
and had abundantly unfolded his character, the mother 
died. Before her end, she had seen symptoms of her hus- 
band's impending - ruin ; and, determined that her daugh- 
ter should not be dependent on his careless administration, 
nor on her son's ominous selfishness and ambition, she 
secured effectually, from the covetousness of both, her own 
large fortune, which was settled on her daughter. She 
resisted every influence, and every art, employed to induce 
her to release this property, or allow it to merge in the 
family resources, and be made available towards relieving 
their embarrassments. And on her death-bed, among other 
solemn parental injunctions, she laid this on her daugh- 
ter's filial sense of duty, that she never would allow, after 
coming of age, any alteration in this arrangement. 

Matters grew worse and worse ; creditors pressed; pro- 
perty had been injudiciously disposed of; when a mysterious 
person, called Eurotas, made his appearance in the family. 
No one but its head seemed to know him; and he evidently 
looked upon him as at once a blessing and a curse, the 
bearer both of salvation and of ruin. 

The reader is in possession of Eurotas's own revela- 
tions ; it is sufficient to add, that being the elder brother, 
but conscious that his rough, morose, and sinister character 
did not fit him for sustaining the position of head of the 
family and administering quietly a settled property, and 
having a haughty ambition to raise his house into a nobler 
rank, and increase even its riches, he took but a moderate 
sum of money as capital, vanished for years, embarked in 
the desperate traffic of interior Asia, penetrated into China 
and India, and came back home with a large fortune, and 
a collection of rare gems, which helped his nephew's brief 
career, but misguided him to ruin in Rome. 

Eurotas, instead of a rich family, into which to pour 
superfluous wealth, found only a bankrupt house to save 
from ruin. But his family pride prevailed ; and after 

A A 



354 fabiola; OR, 

many reproaches, and bitter cjuarrels with his brother, but 
concealed from all else, he paid off his debts by the extinc- 
tion of his own capital, and thus virtually became master 
of all the wreck of his brother's property, and of the entire 
family. 

After a few years of weary life, the father sickened 
and died. On his death-bed, he told Orontius that he 
had nothing- to leave him, that all he had lived on for 
some years, the very house over his head, belonged to 
his friend Eurotas, whose relationship he did not further 
explain, whom he must look up to entirely for support 
and guidance. The youth thus found himself, while full 
of pride, ambition, and voluptuousness, in the hands of a 
cold-hearted, remorseless, and no less ambitious man, who 
soon prescribed as the basis of mutual confidence, absolute 
submission to his will, while he should act in the capacity 
of an inferior, and the understood principle, that nothing- 
was too great or too little, nothing- too good or too wicked 
to be done, to restore family position and wealth. 

To stay at Antioch was impossible after the ruin which 
had overtaken the house. With a good capital in hand, 
much might be done elsewhere. But now, even the sale 
of all left would scarcely cover the liabilities discovered 
after the father's death. There was still untouched the 
sister's fortune; and both agreed that this must be got from 
her. Every artifice was tried, every persuasion employed, 
but she simply and firmly resisted; both in obedience to 
her mother's dying orders, and because she had in view 
the establishment of a house for consecrated virgins, in 
which she intended to pass her days. She was now just 
of legal age to dispose of her own property. She offered 
them every advantage that she could give them ; proposed 
that for a time they should all live tog-ether upon her 
means. But this did not answer their purpose ; and when 
every other course had failed, Eurotas began to hint, that 
one who stood so much in their way should be got rid of 
at any cost. 

Orontius shuddered at the first proposal of the thought. 
Eurotas familiarised him gradually with it, till — shrinking 
yet from the actual commission of fratricide — he thought 



CH. XXXIII.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 355 

he had almost done something' virtuous, as the brothers of 
Joseph imagined they did, by adopting a slower and less 
sanguinary method of dealing with an obnoxious brother. 
Stratagem and unseen violence, of which no law could take 
cognisance, and which no one would dare reveal, offered 
him the best chance of success. 

Among the privileges of Christians in the first ages, 
we have already mentioned that of reserving the Blessed 
Eucharist at home for domestic communion. We have 
described the way in which it was enfolded in an orarium-, 
or linen cloth, again often preserved in a richer cover. 
This precious gift was kept in a chest (area) with a lid, 
as St. Cyprian has informed us.* Orontius well knew 
this ; and he was moreover aware that its contents were 
more prized than silver or gold ; that, as the Fathers tell 
us, to drop negligently a crumb of the consecrated bread 
was considered a crime;f and that the name of "pearl," 
which was given to the smallest fragment,! showed that it 
was so precious in a Christian's eye, that he would part 
with all he possessed to rescue it from sacrilegious pro- 
fanation. 

The scarf richly embroidered with pearls, which has 
more than once affected our narrative, was the outer 
covering in which Miriam's mother had preserved this 
treasure; and her daughter valued it both as a dear inherit- 
ance, and as a consecrated object, for she continued its use. 

One day, early in the morning, she knelt before her 
ark; and after fervent preparation by prayer, proceeded 
to open it. To her dismay she found it already unlocked, 
and her treasure gone ! Like Mary Magdalen at the se- 
pulchre, she wept bitterly, because they had taken her Lord, 

* " Cum arcam suam, in qua Domini sanctum fait, manibus in- 
dignis tentasset aperire, igne inde surgente deterrita est, ne auderet 
attingere." " When she attempted to open, with unworthy hands, 
her chest, in which was the holy (body) of our Lord, she was de- 
terred from daring to touch it, by fire rising up from it." De 
Lapsis. 

■f See Martenne, De antiquis Ecclesice Mitibus. 

j So in the eastern liturgies. Fortunatus calls the Blessed Eu- 
charist, " Corporis Agni margaritum ingens.' - " The huge pearl of 
the Body of the Lamb." Lib. hi. car. 25. 



356 

and she knew not where they had laid Him.* Like her, 
too, "as she was weeping she stooped down and looked" 
again into her ark, and found a paper, which in the con- 
fusion of the first glance she had overlooked. 

It informed her that what she sought was safe in her 
brother's hands, and might be ransomed. She ran at 
once to him, where he was closeted with the dark man, 
in whose presence she always trembled ; threw herself on 
her knees before him, and entreated him to restore what 
she valued more than all her wealth. He was on the 
point of yielding to her tears and supplications, when 
Eurotas fixed his stern eye upon him, overawed him, then 
himself addressed her, saying : 

" Miriam, we take you at your word. We wish to put 
the earnestness and reality of your faith to a sufficient test. 
Are you truly sincere in what you offer?" 

" I will surrender any thing, all I have, to rescue from 
profanation the Holy of Holies." 

" Then sign that paper," said Eurotas, with a sneer. 

She took the pen in her hand, and after running her 
eye over the document, signed it. It was a surrender of 
her entire property to Eurotas. Orontiuswas furious when 
he saw himself overreached, by the man to whom he had 
suggested the snare for his sister. But it was too late ; 
he was only the faster in his unsparing" gripe. A more 
formal renunciation of her rights was exacted from Miriam, 
with the formalities required by the Roman law. 

For a short time she was treated soothingly; then hints 
began to be given to her of the necessity of moving, as 
Orontius and his friend intended to proceed to Nicomedia, 
the imperial residence. She asked to be sent to Jerusalem, 
where she would obtain admission into some community 
of holy women. She was accordingly embarked on board 
a vessel, the captain of which bore a suspicious character, 
and was very sparing-ly supplied with means. But she 
bore round her neck what she had given proof of valu- 
ing, more than any wealth. For, as St. Ambrose relates 
of his brother Satyrus, yet a catechumen, Christians carried 

* St. John xxi. 13. 



CH. XXXIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 357 

round their necks the Holy Eucharist, when embarking 1 
for a voyage.* We need not say that Miriam bore it se- 
curely folded in the only thing* of price she cared to take 
from her father's house. 

When the vessel was out at sea, instead of coasting 
towards Joppe or any port on the coast, the captain stood 
straight out, as if making for some distant shore. What 
his purpose was, it was difficult to conjecture ; hut his few 
passengers became alarmed, and a serious altercation en- 
sued. This was cut short by a sudden storm ; the vessel 
was carried forward at the mercy of the winds for some 
days, and then dashed to pieces on a rocky island near 
Cyprus. Like Satyrus, Miriam attributed her reaching 
the shore in safety to the precious burden which she 
bore. She was almost the only survivor; at least she 
saw no other person saved. Those, therefore, that did 
live besides, on returning to Antioch, reported her death, 
together with that of the remaining passengers and crew. 

She was picked up on the shore by men who lived on 
such spoil. Destitute and friendless, she was sold to a 
trader in slaves, taken to Tarsus, on the mainland, and 
again sold to a person of high rank, who treated her with 
kindness. 

After a short time, Fabius instructed one of his agents 
in Asia to procure a slave of polished manners and virtuous 
character, if possible, at any price, to attend on his daugh- 
ter ; and Miriam, under the name of Syra, came to bring 
salvation to the house of Fabiola. 



CHAPTEE XXXIV. 

BRIGHT DEATH. 



It was a few days after the occurrences related in our last 
chapter but one, that Fabiola was told, that an old man in 
great anguish, real or pretended, desired to speak with 

* De morte SatyrL 



358 



FABIOLA; OR, 



her. On going down to him and asking- him his name 
and business, he replied : 

" My name, noble lady, is Ephraim ; and I have a 
large debt secured on the property of the late Lady Ag-nes,. 
which I understand has now passed into your hands ; and 
I am come, therefore, to claim it from you, for otherwise 
I am a ruined man!" 

" How is that possible ?" asked JFabiola in amazement. 
" I cannot believe that my cousin ever contracted debts." 

" No, not she" rejoined the usurer, a little abashed ; 
" but a g-entleman called Fulvius, to whom the property 
was to come by confiscation; so I advanced him large 
sums upon it." 

Her first impulse was to turn the man out of the house ; 
but the thought of the sister came to her mind, and she 
civilly said to him : 

" Whatever debts Fulvius has contracted I will dis- 
charge ; but with only legal interest, and without regard 
to usurious contracts." 

" But think of the risks I ran, madam. I have been 
most moderate in my rates, I assure you." 

" Well," she answered, " call on my steward, and he 
shall settle all. You are running no risks now at least." 

She g'ave instructions, accordingly, to the freed-man 
who managed her affairs, to pay this sum on those con- 
ditions, which reduced it to one half the demand. But 
she soon engaged him in a more laborious task, that of 
going- through the whole of her late father's accounts, and 
ascertaining every case of injury or oppression, that resti- 
tution might be made. And further, having ascertained 
that Corvinus had really obtained the imperial rescript, 
through his father, by which her own lawful property was 
saved from confiscation, though she refused ever to see 
him, she bestowed upon him such a remuneration as would 
ensure him comfort through life. 

These temporal matters being soon disposed of, she 
divided her attention between the care of the patient and 
preparation for her Christian initiation. To promote Mi- 
riam's recovery, she removed her, with a small portion of 
her household, to a spot dear to both, the Nomentan villa. 



CH. XXXIV.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 359 

The spring had set in, and Miriam could have her couch 
brought to the window, or, in the warmest part of the 
day, could even he carried down into the garden before 
the house, where, with Fahiola on one side and Emeren- 
tiana on the other, and poor Molossus, who had lost all 
his spirit, at her feet, they would talk of friends lost, and 
especially of her with whom every object around was asso- 
ciated in their memories. And no sooner was the name of 
Agnes mentioned, than her old faithful guard would prick 
up his ears and wag his tail, and look around him. They 
would also frequently discourse on Christian subjects, when 
Miriam would follow up, humbly and unpretendingly, but 
with the warm glow which had first charmed Fabiola, the 
instructions given by the holy Dionysius. 

Thus, for instance, when he had been treating of the 
virtue and meaning of the sign of the cross to be used in 
baptism, "whether on the forehead of believers, or over 
the water, by which they were to be regenerated, or the 
oil with which, as well as the chrism, they were anointed, 
or the sacrifice by which they are fed;"* Miriam explained 
to the catechumens its more domestic and practical use, 
and exhorted them to practise faithfully what all good 
Christians did, that is, to make this holy sign upon them- 
selves already, "in the course and at the beginning- of 
every work, on coming in and going out, when putting" on 
their clothes, or sandals, when they washed, sat down to 
table, lighted their lamp, lay down in bed, or sat on a 
chair, in whatever conversation they should be engaged. "f 
But it was observed with pain, by all but Fabiola, that 
the patient, thoug'h the wound had healed, did not gain 
strength. It is often the mother or sister that is last to 
see the slow waste of illness, in child or sister. Love is so 
hopeful, and so blind ! There was a hectic flush on her 
cheek, she was emaciated and weak, and a slight cough 
was heard from time to time. She lay long awake, and 
she desired to have her bed so placed that from early dawn 

* St. Aug. Tract, cxviii. in Joan. 

t Tertullian (who lived earlier than two hundred years after 
Christ, and is the oldest Latin ecclesiastical writer) de Corona Milit. 
c. 3. 



360 fabiola; or, 

she could look out upon one spot more fair to them all 
than the richest parterre. 

There had long been in the villa an entrance to the 
cemetery on this road ; hut from this time it had already 
received the name of Agnes ; for near its entrance had 
this holy martyr been buried. Her body rested in a cu- 
bicuhim or chamber, under an arched tomb. Just above 
the entrance into this chamber, and in the middle of the 
grounds, was an opening, surrounded above by a low para- 
pet, concealed by shrubs, which gave light and air to the 
room below. Towards this point Miriam loved to look, 
as the nearest approach she coidd make, in her infirm 
health, to the sepulchre of one whom she so much vene- 
rated and loved. 

Early one morning, beautiful and calm, for it wanted 
but a few weeks to Easter, she was looking in that direc- 
tion, when she observed half-a-dozen young men, who on 
their way to angle in the neighbouring Anio, were taking 
a short cut across the villa, and so committing a trespass. 
They passed by this opening ; and one of them, having 
looked down, called the others. 

"This is one of those underground lurking-places of the 
Christians." 

" One of their rabbit-holes into the burrow." 

" Let us go in," said one. 

" Yes, and how shall we get up again?" asked a second. 

This dialogue she could not hear, but she saw what 
followed it. One who had looked down more carefully, 
shading his eyes from the light, called the others to do the 
same, but with gestures which enjoined silence. In a mo- 
ment they pulled down large stones from the rock-work of 
a fountain, close at hand, and threw down a volley of them 
at something below. They laughed very heartily as they 
went away; and Miriam supposed that they had seen some 
serpent or other noxious animal below, and had amused 
themselves with pelting it. 

When others were stirring she mentioned the occur- 
rence, that the stones might be removed. Fabiola wont 
down herself with a few servants, for she was jealous of 
the custody of Agnes's tomb. What was her distress at 



CH. XXXIV.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 361 

finding - poor Einerentiana gone down to pray at her foster- 
sister's tomb, lying weltering in her blood, and perfectly 
dead. It was discovered that, the evening before, passing 
by some Pagan orgies near the river, and being invited to 
join in them, she had not only refused, but had reproached 
the partakers in them with their wickedness, and with their 
cruelties to Christians. They assailed her with stones, and" 
grievously wounded her; but she escaped from their fury 
into the villa. Peeling - herself faint and wounded, she 
crept unnoticed to the tomb of Agnes, there to pray. She 
had been unable to move away when some of her former 
assailants discovered her. Those brutal Pag'ans had anti- 
cipated the ministry of the Church, and had conferred 
upon her the baptism of blood. She was buried near Ag- 
nes, and the modest peasant child received the honour of 
annual commemoration among the Saints. 

Pabiola and her companions Avent through the usual 
course of preparation, though abridged on account of the 
persecution. By living at the very entrance into a ceme- 
tery, and one furnished with such large churches, they 
were enabled to pass through the three stages of catechu- 
menship. Pirst they were hearers,* admitted to be pre- 
sent, while the lessons were read ; then kneelers,-f who as- 
sisted at a portion of the liturgical prayers; and lastly 
elect, or petitionersl for baptism. 

Once in this last class, they had to attend frequently in 
church, but more particularly on the three Wednesdays 
following the first, the fourth, and the last Sundays in 
Lent, on which days the Roman Missal yet retains a se- 
cond collect and lesson, derived from this custom. Any 
one perusing the present rite of baptism in the Catholic 
Church, especially that of adults, will see condensed into 
one office what used to be anciently distributed through a 
variety of functions. On one day the renunciation of Sa- 
tan was made, previous to its repetition just before bap- 
tism ; on another the touching of the ears and nostrils, or 
the Ephpheta, as it was called. Then were repeated exor- 

* Audientes. % Electi and competentes. 

•f Genuflectentcs. 



3G2. 

cisms, and genuflections, and signings of crosses on the 
forehead and body,* breathings upon the candidate, and 
other mysterious rites. More solemn still was the unction, 
which was not confined to the head, but extended to the 
whole body. 

The Creed was also faithfully learnt, and committed to 
memory. But the doctrine of the Blessed Eucharist was 
not imparted till after baptism. 

In these multiplied preparatory exercises the peniten- 
tial time of Lent passed quickly and solemnly, till at last 
Easter-eve arrived. 

It does not fall to our lot to describe the ceremonial of 
the Church in the administration of the Sacraments. The 
liturgical system received its great developments after 
peace had been gained ; and much that belongs to outward 
forms and splendour was incompatible with the bitter per- 
secution which the Church was undergoing. 

It is enough for us to have shown, how not only doc- 
trines and great sacred rites, but how even ceremonies and 
accessories were the same in the three first centuries as 
now. If our example is thought worth following-, some 
one will perhaps illustrate a brighter period than we have 
chosen. 

The baptism of Fabiola and her household had nothing 
to cheer it but purely spiritual joy. The titles in the city 
were all closed, and among" them that of St. Pastor with 
its papal baptistery. 

Early, therefore, on the morning of the auspicious day, 
the party crept round the walls to the opposite side of the 
city, and following" the Via Portuensis, or road that led to 
the port at the mouth of the Tiber, turned into a vineyard 
near Caesar's gardens, and descended into the cemetery of 
Pontianus, celebrated as the resting-place of the Persian 
martyrs, SS. Abdon and Sennen. 

The morning- was spent in prayer and preparation, when 
towards evening the solemn office, which was to be pro- 
tracted through the night, commenced. 

When the time for the administration of baptism ar- 

* These will be found, particularly in the baptism of adults, 
joined with repetitions of the Our Father. 



CH XXXIV. J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 363 

rived, it was indeed but a dreary celebration that it intro- 
duced. Deep in the bowels of the earth the waters of a 
subterraneous stream had been gathered into a square well 
or cistern, from four to five feet deep. They were clear, 
indeed, but cold and bleak, if we may use the expression, 
in their subterranean bath, formed out of the tufo, or vol- 
canic rock. A long flight of steps led down to this rude 
baptistery, a small ledge at the side sufficed for the min- 
ister and the candidate, who was thrice immersed in the 
purifying waters. 

The whole remains to this day, just as it was then, 
except that over the water is now to be seen a painting of 
St. John baptising our Lord, added probably a century or 
two later. 

Immediately after Baptism followed Confirmation, and 
then the neophyte, or new-born child of the Church, after 
due instruction, was admitted for the first time to the table 
of his Lord, and nourished with the Bread of angels. 

It was not till late on Easter-day that Fabiola re- 
turned to her villa ; and a long- and silent embrace was 
her first greeting of Miriam. Both were so happy, so 
blissful, so fully repaid for all that they bad been to one 
another for months, that no words could give expression to 
their feelings. Fabiola's grand idea and absorbing pride, 
that day was, that now she had risen to the level of her 
former slave : not in virtue, not in beauty of character, not 
in greatness of mind, not in heavenly wisdom, not in merit 
before God ; oh ! no ; in all this she felt herself infinitely 
her inferior. But as a child of God, as heiress to an 
eternal kingdom, as a living member of the body of Christ, 
as admitted to a share in all His mercies, to all the price 
of His redemption, as a new creature in Him, she felt that 
she was equal to Miriam, and with happy glee she told 
her so. 

Never had she been so proud of splendid garment as 
she was of the white robe, which she had received as she 
came out of the font, and which she had to wear for eight 
days. 

But a merciful Father knows how to blend our joys and 
sorrows, and sends us the latter when He has best pre- 



364 FABIOLA ; OR, 

pared us for them. In that warm embrace which we have 
mentioned; she for the first time noticed the shortened 
breath, and heaving- chest of her dear sister. She would 
not dwell upon it in her thoughts, but sent to beg Diony- 
sius to come on the morrow. That evening they all kept 
their Easter banquet together ; and Fabiola felt happy to 
preside at Miriam's side over a table, at which reclined or 
sat her own converted slaves, and those of Agnes's house- 
hold, all of whom she had retained. She never remem- 
bered having- enjoyed so delig-htful a supper. 

Early next morning-, Miriam called Fabiola to her side, 
and with a fond, caressing- manner, which she had never 
before displayed, said to her : 

" My dear sister, what will you do, when I have left 
you?" 

Poor Fabiola was overpowered with grief. " Are you 
then going- to leave me ? I had hoped we should live for 
ever as sisters together. But if you wish to leave Rome, 
may I not accompany you, at least to nurse you, to serve 
you ?" 

Miriam smiled, but a tear was in her eye, as taking 
her sister's hand, she pointed up towards heaven. Fabiola 
understood her, and said : " 0, no, no, dearest sister. Pray 
to God, who will refuse you nothing, that I may not lose 
you. It is selfish, I know; but what can I do without you? 
And now too, that I have learnt how much they who reig-n 
with Christ can do for us by intercession, I will pray to 
Agues* and Sebastian, to interpose for me, and avert so 
great a calamity. 

* " Agnae sepulchrum est Romulea in domo, 
Fortis puellse, martyris inclitae. 
Conspectu in ipso condita turrium 
Servat salutem virgo Quiritum : 
Necnon et ipsos protegit advenas, 
Puro ac fideli pectore supplices." 

Prudentiu/i. 
" The tomb of Agnes graces Home, 
A maiden brave, a martyr great. 
Resting in sight of bastioned gate, 
From harm the virgin shields her home ; 
Nor to the stranger help denies, 
If sought with pure and faithful sighs." 



CH. XXXIV.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 365 

"Do get well: I am sure there is nothing- serious in" 
the matter ; the warm weather, and the genial climate of 
Campania, will soon restore you. We will sit again together 
by the spring, and talk over better things than philosophy." 

Miriam shook her head, not mournfully, but cheerfully, 
as she replied : 

" Do not flatter yourself, dearest; God has spared me 
till I should see this happy day. But His hand is on me 
now for death, as it has been hitherto for life ; and I hail 
it with joy. I know too well the number of my days." 

" Oh ! let it not be so soon !" sobbed out Fabiola. 

" Xot while you have on your white garment, dear 
sister," answered Miriam. " I know you would wish to 
mourn for me ; but I would not rob you of one hour of 
your mystic whiteness." 

Dionysius came, and saw a great change in his patient, 
whom he had not visited for some time. It was as he had 
feared it might be. The insidious point of the dagger had 
curled round the bone, and injured the pleura; and phthisis 
had rapidly set in. He coniirmed Miriam's most serious 
anticipations. 

Fabiola went to pray for resignation at the- sepulchre 
of Agnes ; she prayed long and fervently, and with mam- 
tears, then returned. 

" Sister," she said with firmness, " God's will be done, 
I am ready to resign even you to Him. I\ ow, tell me, I 
entreat you, what would you have me do, after you are 
taken from mef' 

Miriam looked up to heaven, and answered, " Lay my 
body at the feet of Agnes, and remain to watch over us, to 
pray to her, and for me; until a stranger shall arrive from 
the East, the bearer of good tidings." 

On the Sunday following, " Sunday of the white gar- 
ments,*' Dionysius celebrated, by special permission, the 
sacred mysteries in Miriam's room, and administered to her 
the most holy Communion, as her viaticum. This private 
celebration, as we know from St. Augustine and others, 
was not a rare privilege.* Afterwards, he anointed her 

* St. Ambrose said Mass in the house of a lady beyond the Tiber. 



366 FABIOLA. 

with oil, accompanied by prayer, the last Sacrament which 
the Church bestows. 

Fabiola and the household who had attended these so- 
lemn rites, with tears and prayers, now descended into the 
crypt, and after the divine offices returned to Miriam in 
their darker raiment. 

" The hour is come," said she, taking Fabiola' s hand. 
" Forgive me, if I have been wanting- in duty to you, and 
in good example." 

This was more than Fabiola could stand, and she burst 
into tears. Miriam soothed her, and said, " Put to my 
lips the sign of salvation when I can speak no more; and, 
good Dionysius, remember me at God's altar when I am 
departed." 

He prayed at her side, and she replied, till at length 
her voice failed her. But ber lips moved, and she pressed 
them on the cross presented to her. She looked serene 
and joyful, till at length raising her hand to her forehead, 
then bringing it to her breast, it fell dead there, in making 
the saving sign. A smile passed over her face, and she 
expired, as thousands of Christ's children have expired 
since. 

Fabiola mourned much over her; but this time she 
mourned as they do who have hope, 

(Paulinus, in his Life, tom. ii. Oper. ed. Bened.) St. Augustine 
mentions a priest's saying Mass in a house supposed to be infested 
with evil spirits. De Civ. D. lib. xxii. c. 8. 



PART THIED. 
Ftctorg, 




CHAPTEE I. 

(Cftu^ THE STRANGER FROM THE EAST. 

E appear to ourselves to be walking in soli- 
tude. One by one, those whose words and 
actions, and even thoughts, have hitherto 
accompanied and sustained us, have dropped 
off, and the prospect around looks very 
dreary. But is all this unnatural? We 
have been describing not an ordinary period 
of peace and every-day life, but one of war- 
fare, strife, and battle. Is it unnatural that 
the bravest, the most heroic, should have 
fallen thick around us ? We have been re- 
viving- the memory of the cruellest persecu- 
tion which the Church ever suffered, when 
it was proposed to erect a column bearing 
the inscription that the Christian name had 
been extinguished. Is it strange that the holiest and 
purest should have been the earliest to be crowned ? 

And yet the Church of Christ has still to sustain many 
years of sharper persecution than we have described. A 
succession of tyrants and oppressors kept up the fearful 
war upon her, without intermission, in one part of the world 



368 fabiola; or, 

or another for twenty years, even after Constantine had 
checked it wherever his power reached. Dioclesian, Gale- 
rius, Maximums, and Licinius in the East, Maximian and 
Maxentius in the West, allowed no rest to the Christians 
under their several dominions. Like one of those rolling 
storms which go over half the world, visiting various 
countries with their ravaging energy, while their gloomy 
foreboding or sullen wake simultaneously overshadow them 
all, so did this persecution wreak its fury first on one coun- 
try, then on another, destroying every thing Christian, 
passing from Italy to Africa, from Upper Asia to Palestine, 
Egypt, and then back to Armenia, while it left no place in 
actual peace, but hung like a blighting storm-cloud over 
the entire empire. 

And yet the Church increased, prospered, and defied 
this world of sin. Pontiff stepped after Pontiff at once 
upon the footstool of the papal throne and upon the scaf- 
fold ; councils were held in the dark halls of the catacombs; 
bishops came to Rome, at risk of their lives, to consult the 
successor of St. Peter; letters were exchanged between 
Churches far distant and the supreme Ruler of Christen- 
dom, and between different Churches, full of sympathy, 
encouragement and affection ; bishop succeeded bishop in 
his see, and ordained priests and other ministers to take 
the place of the fallen, and be a mark set upon the bulwarks 
of the city for the enemy's aim ; and the work of Christ's 
imperishable kingdom went on without interruption, and 
without fear of extinction. 

Indeed it was in the midst of all these alarms and con- 
flicts, that the foundations were being laid of a mighty 
system, destined to produce stupendous effects in after 
ages. The persecution drove many from the cities, into the 
deserts, of Egypt, where the monastic state grew up, so as 
to make " the wilderness rejoice and flourish like the lily, 
bud forth and blossom, and rejoice with joy and praise."* 
And so, when Dioclesian had been degraded from the 
purple, and had died a peevish destitute old man, and Ga- 
lerius had been eaten up alive l>y ulcers and worms, and 

* Isaiah xxxv. 1, 2. 



CH. I.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 369 

had acknowledged, by public edict, the failure of his at- 
tempts, and Maximian Herculeus had strangled himself, 
and Maxentius had perished in the Tiber, and Maximums 
had expired amidst tortures inflicted by Divine justice 
equal to any he had inflicted on Christians, his very eves 
having started from their sockets, and Licinius had been 
put to death by Constantine ; the spouse of Christ, whom 
they had all conspired to destroy, stood young and bloom- 
ing as ever, about to enter into her great career of universal 
diffusion and rule. 

It was in the year 313 that Constantine, having de- 
feated Maxentius, gave full liberty to the Church. Even 
if ancient writers had not described it, we may imagine 
the joy and gratitude of the poor Christians on this great 
change. It was like the coming forth, and tearful though 
happy greeting, of the inhabitants of a city decimated by 
plague, when proclamation has gone forth that the infec- 
tion has ceased. For here, after ten years of separation 
and concealment, when families could scarcely meet in the 
cemeteries nearest to them, many did not know who among 
friends or kinsfolk had fallen victims, or who might yet 
survive. Timid at first, and then more courageous, they 
ventured forth; soon the places of old assembly, which 
children born in the last ton years had not seen, were 
cleansed, or repaired, refitted and reconciled,* and opened 
to public, and now fearless, worship. 

Constantine also ordered all property, public or private, 
belonging to Christians and confiscated, to be restored; but 
with the wise provision that the actual holders should be 
indemnified by the imperial treasury. f The Church was 
soon in motion to bring out all the resources of her beauti- 
ful forms and institutions ; and either the existing basilicas 
were converted to her uses, or new ones were built on the 
most cherished spots of Rome. 

Let not the reader fear that we are going to lead him 
forward into a long history. This will belong to some one 
better qualified, for the task of unfolding the grandeur and 
charms of free and unfettered Christianity. We have only 

* The ceremony employed after desecration, 
t Euseb. H. E. lib. x. c. 5. 
B B 



370 

to show the land of promise from above, spread like an in- 
viting- paradise before our feet ; we are not the Josue that 
must lead others in. The little that we have to add in this 
brief third part of our humble book, is harely what is neces- 
sary for its completion. 

We will then suppose ourselves arrived at the year 31S, 
fifteen years after our last scene of death. Time and per- 
manent laws have given security to the Christian religion, 
and the Chureh is likewise more fully establishing her or- 
ganisation. Many who on the return of peace had hung 
down their heads, having by some act of weak condescen- 
sion escaped death, had by this time expiated their fall by 
penance ; and now and then an aged stranger would be 
saluted reverently by the passers-by, when they saw that 
bis right eye had been burnt out, or his hand mutilated ; 
or when his halting" gait showed that the tendons of the 
knee had been severed, in the late persecution, for Christ's 
sake.* 

If at this period our friendly reader will follow us out 
of the Nomentan gate, to the valley with which he is al- 
readv acquainted, he will find sad havoc among- the beauti- 
ful trees and flower-beds of Fabiola's villa. Scaffold-poles 
are standing- up in place of the first ; bricks, marbles, and 
columns he upon the latter. Constantia, the daughter of 
Constantine, had prayed at St. Agnes's tomb, when not 
yet a Christian, to beg the cure of a virulent ulcer, had 
been refreshed by a vision, and completely cured. Being 
now baptised, she was repaying her debt of g-ratitude, by 
building over her tomb her beautiful basilica. Still the 
faithful had access to the crypt in which she was buried ; 
and great was the concourse of pilgrims, that came from 
all parts of the world. 

One afternoon, when Fabiola returned from the city to 
her villa, after spending the day in attending to the sick, in 
an hospital established in her own house, the fossor, who 
had charge of the cemetery, met her with an air of great 
interest, and no small excitement, and said, 

* In the East, some governors, wearied with wholesale murders, 
adopted this more merciful way of treating Christians towards the 
end of the persecution. See Eusebius. 



CH. I.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 371 

" Madam, I sincerely believe that the stranger from 
the East, whom you have so long expected, is arrived." 

Fabiola, who had ever treasured up the dying words of 
Miriam, eagerly asked, " Where is he ?" 

" He is gone again," was the reply. 

The lady's countenance fell. " But how," she asked 
again, u do you know it was he ?" The excavator replied : 

" In the course of the morning I noticed, among the 
crowd, a man not yet fifty, but worn by mortification and 
sorrow, to premature old age. His hair was nearly g'rey, 
as was Ms long beard. His dress was eastern, and he wore 
the cloak which the monks from that country usually do. 
When he came before the tomb of Agnes, he flung himself 
upon the pavement with such a passion of tears, such groans, 
such sobs, as moved all around to compassion. Many 
approached him, and whispered, ' Brother, thou art in 
great distress ; weep not so, the saint is merciful.' Others 
said to him, ' We will all pray for thee, fear not.'* But 
he seemed to be beyond comfort. I thought to myself, 
surely in the presence of so gentle and kind a saint, none 
ought to be thus disconsolate or heart-broken, except only 
one man." 

" Go on, go on," broke in Fabiola ; " what did lie 
next ."' 

" After a long time," continued the fossor, " he arose, 
and drawing from his bosom a most beautiful and sparkling 
ring, he laid it on her tomb. I thought I had seen it be- 
fore, many years ago." 

"And then?" 

" Turning round he saw me, and recognised my dress. 
He approached me, and I could feel him trembling-, as, 
without looking in my face, he timidly asked me, ' Bro- 
ther, knowest thou if there lie buried any where here about 
a maiden from Syria, called Miriam V I pointed silently 
to the tomb. After a pause of great pain to himself, so 
agitated now that his voice faltered, he asked me again, 
' Knowest thou, brother, of what she died V ' Of consump- 
tion,' I replied. 'Thank God!' he ejaculated, with the 

* This scene is described from reality. 



372 fabiola; or, 

sigh of relieved anguish, and fell prostrate on the ground. 
Here too he moaned and cried for more than an hour, then, 
approaching the tomb, affectionately kissed its cover, and 
retired." 

" It is he, Torquatus, it is he !" warmly exclaimed 
Fabiola; "why did you not detain him?" 

" I durst not, lady ; after I had once seen his face, I 
had not courag-e to meet his eye. But I am sure he will 
return again ; for he went towards the city." 

" He must be found," concluded Fabiola. " Dear Mi- 
riam, thou hadst, then, this consoling foresight in death !" 



CHAPTER II. 

THE STRANGER IN ROME. 

Early next morning, the pilgrim was passing through 
the Forum, when he saw a group of persons gathered 
round one whom they were evidently teazing\ He would 
have paid but little attention to such a scene in a public 
thoroughfare, had not his ear caught a name familiar to it. 
He therefore drew nigh. In the centre was a man, younger 
than himself j but if he looked older than he was, from 
being wan and attenuated, the other did so much more 
from being the very contrary. He was bald and bloated, 
with a face swelled, and red, and covered with blotches 
and boils. A drunken cunning swam in his eye, and his 
gait and tone were those of a man habitually intoxicated. 
His clothes were dirty, and his whole person neglected. 

" Ay, ay, Corvinus," one youth was saying to him, 
" won't you get your deserts, now ? Have you not heard 
that Constantine is coming this year to Rome, and don't 
you think the Christians will have their turn about, 
now?"^ 

" Not they," answered the man we have described, 
" they have not the pluck for it. I remember we feared 
it, when Constantine published his first edict, after the 
death of Maxentius, about liberty for the Christians, but 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 373 

next year he put us out of fear, by declaring- all religions 
to be equally permitted."* 

" That is all very well, as a general rule," interposed 
another, determined further to plague him ; " but is it not 
supposed that he is going to look up those who took an 
active part in the late persecution, and have the lex tali- 
onis f executed on them ; stripe for stripe, burning for burn- 
ing, and wild beast for wild beast ?" 

" Who says so ?" asked Corvinus, turning pale. 

" Why, it would surely be very natural," said one. 

" And very just," added another. 

" Oh, never mind," said Corvinus, " they will always 
let one off for turning Christian. And, I am sure, I would 
turn any thing, rather than stand — " 

" Where Pancratius stood," interposed a third, more 
malicious. 

" Hold your tongue," broke out the drunkard, with 
a tone of positive rage. " Mention his name again, if you 
dare !" And he raised his fist, and looked furiously at the 
speaker. 

" Ay, because he told you how you were to die," 
shouted the youngster, running- away. " Heigh ! Heigh ! 
a panther here for Corvinus !" 

All ran away before the human beast, now lashed into 
fury, more than they would have done from the wild one 
of the desert. He cursed them, and threw stones after 
them. 

The pilgrim, from a short distance, watched the close 
of the scene, then went on. Corvinus moved slower along 
the same road, that which led towards the Lateran basilica, 
now the Cathedral of Rome. Suddenly a sharp growl was 
heard, and with it a piercing shriek. As they were passing 
by the Coliseum, near the dens of the wild beasts, which 
were prepared for combats among themselves, on occasion 
of the emperor's visit, Corvinus, impelled by the morbid 
curiosity natural to persons who consider themselves victims 
of some fatality, connected with a particular object, ap- 

* Eusebius, ubi sup. 

f The law of retaliation, such as was prescribed also in the 
Mosaic law, " an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," &c. 



374: fabiola; or, 

proached the cage in which a splendid panther was kept. 
He went close to the bars, and provoked the animal, by 
gestures and words ; saying- : " Very hkely, indeed, that 
you are to be the death of me ! You are very safe in your 
den." In that instant, the enraged animal made a spring 
at him, and through the wide bars of the den, caught his 
neck and throat in its fangs, and inflicted a frightful lace- 
rated wound. 

The wretched man was picked up, and earned to his 
lodgings, not far off. The stranger followed him, and 
found them mean, dirty, and uncomfortable in the ex- 
treme; with only an old and decrepit slave, apparently as 
sottish as his master, to attend him. The stranger sent 
him out to procure a surgeon, who was long in coming j 
and, in the meantime, did his best to stanch the blood. 

While he was so occupied, Corvinus fixed his eyes upon 
him with a look of one delirious, or demented. 

" Do you know me ?" asked the pilgrim, soothingly. 

" Know you? No — yes. Let me see — Ha ! the fox! 
my fox ! Do you remember our hunting together those 
hateful Christians. Where have you been all this time ? 
How many of them have you caught V* And he laughed 
oiitrageously. 

" Peace, peace, Corvinus," replied the other. " You 
must be very quiet, or there is no hope for you. Besides, 
I do not wish you to allude to those times ; for I am myself 
now a Christian." 

" You a Christian ?" broke out Corvinus savag'ely. 
" You who have shed more of their best blood than any 
man ? Have you been forgiven for all this ? Or have you 
slept quietly upon it ? Have no furies lashed you at night? 
no phantoms haunted you ? no viper sucked your heart ? 
If so, tell me how you have got rid of them all, that I may 
do the same. If not, they will come, they will come ! 
Vengeance and fury ! why should they not have tormented 
you as much as me?" 

" Silence, Corvinus ; I have suffered as you have. But 
I have found the remedy, and will make it known to you, 
as soon as the physician has seen you, for he is approach- 



CH. II.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 375 

The doctor saw him, dressed the wound, but gave little 
hope of recovery, especially in a patient whose very blood 
was tainted by intemperance. 

The strang-er now resumed his seat beside him, and 
spoke of the mercy of God, and His readiness to forgive 
the worst of sinners ; whereof he himself was a living proof. 
The unhappy man seemed to be in a sort of stupor ; if he 
listened, not comprehending what was said. At length his 
kind instructor, having expounded to him the fundamental 
mysteries of Christianity, in hope, rather than certainty, of 
being attended to, went on to say, 

" And now, Corvinus, you will ask me, how is for- 
giveness to be applied to one who believes all this ? It is 
by Baptism, by being born again of water and the Holy 
Ghost." 

" What ?" exclaimed the sick man loathingly. 
" By being washed in the laver of regenerating water." 
He was interrupted by a convulsive growl rather than 
a moan. "Water ! water ! no water for me ! Take it away !'* 
And a strong- spasm seized the patient's throat. 

His attendant was alarmed, but sought to ealm him. 
" Think not," he said, " that you are to be taken hence in 
your present fever, and to be plunged into water" (the sick 
man shuddered, and moaned) ; " in clinical baptism,* a few 
drops suffice, not more than is in this pitcher." And he 
showed him the water in a small vessel. At the sight of it, 
the patient writhed and foamed at the mouth, and was 
shaken by a violent convulsion. The sounds that proceeded 
from him, resembled a howl from a wild beast, more than 
any utterance of human lips. 

The pilgrim saw at once that hydrophobia, with all its 
horrible symptoms, had come upon the patient, from the 
bite of the enraged animal. It was with difficulty that he 
and the servant could hold him down at times. Occasion- 
ally he broke out into frightful paroxysms of blasphemous 
violence against God and man. And then, when this sub- 
sided, he would go on moaning thus ; 

* Clinical baptism, or that of persons confined to their beds, was 
administered by pouring or sprinkling the water on the head. See 
Bingham, book xi. c. 11. 



376 fabiola; or, 

" Water they want to give me ! water ! water ! none 
for me ! It is fire ! fire ! that I have, and that is my por- 
tion. I am already on fire, within, without ! Look how 
it comes creeping up, all round me, it advances every mo- 
ment nearer and nearer !" And he beat off the fancied 
flame with his hands on either side of his bed, and he blew 
at it round his head. Then turning towards his sorrowful 
attendants, he woidd say, " Why don't you put it out? you 
see it is already burning me." 

Thus passed the dreary day, and thus came the dismal 
night, when the fever increased, and with it the delirium, 
and the violent accesses of fury, though the body was sink- 
ing. At length he raised himself up in bed, and looking 
with half-glazed eyes straight before him, he exclaimed in 
a voice choked with bitter rage : 

" Away, Pancratius, begone ! Thou hast glared on me 
long enough. Keep back thy panther ! Hold it fast ; it 
is going to fly at my throat. It comes ! Oh !" And with a 
convulsive grasp, as if pulling the beast from off his throat, 
he plucked away the bandage from his wound. A gush of 
blood poured over him, and he fell back a hideous corpse 
upon the bed. 

His friend saw how unrepenting persecutors died. 



CHAPTEE in, 

AND LAST. 

The next morning, the pilgrim proceeded to discharge the 
business which had been interfered with, by the circum- 
stances related in the preceding chapter. He might have 
been first seen busily employed inquiring after some one, 
about the Januses in the Forum. At length, the person 
was found ; and the two walked towards a dirty little office 
under the Capitol, on the ascent called the Clivus Asyli. Old 
musty books were brought out, and searched column after 
column, till they came to the date of the " Consuls Dio- 
clesian Augustus, the eighth time, and Maximian Hercu- 



CH. III.J THE CHURCH 01' THE CATACOMBS. 377 

leus Augustus, the seventh time."* Here they found sun- 
dry entries, with reference to certain documents. A roll 
of mouldy parchments of that date was produced, docket- 
ted as referred to, and the number corresponding- to the 
entries was drawn out, and examined. The result of the 
investigation seemed perfectly satisfactory to both parties. 

" It is the first time in my life," said the owner of the 
den, " that I ever knew a person who had got clear off, 
come back, after fifteen years, to inquire after his debts. A 
Christian, I presume, sir ?" 

" Certainly, by God's mercy." 

" I thought as much ■ good morning, sir. I shall be 
happy to accommodate you at any time, at as reasonable 
rates as my father Ephraim, now with Abraham. A great 
fool that for his pains, I must say, begging his pardon," 
he added, when the stranger was out of hearing. 

With a decided step and a brighter countenance than 
he had yet displayed, he went straight to the villa on the 
Nomentan way ; and after again paying his devotions in 
the crypt, but with a lighter heart, he at once addressed 
the fossor, as if they had never been parted : " Torquatus, 
can I speak with the Lady Fabiola 1" 

" Certainly," answered the other ; " come this way." 

Neither alluded, as they went along, to old times, nor 
to the intermediate history of either. There seemed to be 
an understanding, instinctive to both, that all the past was 
to be obliterated before men, as they hoped it was before 
God. Fabiola had remained at home that and the preced- 
ing day, in hopes of the stranger's return. She was seated 
in the garden close to a fountain, when Torquatus, pointing 
to her, retired. 

She rose, as she saw the long-expected visitor approach, 
and an indescribable emotion thrilled through her, when 
she found herself standing in his presence. 

" Madam," he said, in a tone of deep humility and 
earnest simplicity, " I should never have presumed to pre- 
sent myself before you, had not an obligation of justice, as 
well as many of gratitude, obliged me." 

* a.d. 303. 



378 

" Orontius," she replied, — " is this the name by which 
I must address you?" (he signified his assent) "you can 
have no obligations towards me, except that which our 
gTeat Apostle charges on us, that we love one another." 

" I know you feel so. And therefore I would not have 
pretended, unworthy as I am, to intrude upon you for any 
lower motive than one of strict duty. I know what grati- 
tude I owe you for the kindness and affection lavished upon 
one now dearer to me than any sister can he on earth, and 
how you discharged towards her the offices of love which I 
had neglected." 

"And thereby sent her to me," interposed Fabiola, "to 
be my angel of life. Remember, Orontius, that Joseph was 
sold by his brethren, only that he might save his race." 

" You are too good, indeed, towards one so worthless," 
resumed the pilgrim ; " but I will not thank you for your 
kindness to another who has repaid you so richly. Only 
this morning I have leamt your mercy to one who could 
have no claim upon you." 

" I do not understand you," observed Fabiola. 

" Then I will tell you all plainly," rejoined Orontius. " I 
have now been for many years a member of one of those 
communities in Palestine, of men who live separated from 
the world in desert places, dividing their day, and even 
their night, between singing the Divine praises, contempla- 
tion, and the labour of their hands. Severe penance for our 
past transgTessions, fasting, mourning, and prayer form the 
great duty of our penitential state. Have you heard of 
such men here 1" 

" The fame of holy Paul and Anthony is as great in 
the West as in the East," replied the lady. 

" It is with the gTeatest disciple of the latter that I 
have lived, supported by his gTeat example, and the con- 
solation he has given me. But one thought troubled me, 
and prevented my feeling' complete assurance of safety, 
even after years of expiation. Before I left Rome I had 
contracted a heavy debt, which must have been accumu- 
lating at a frightful rate of interest, till it had reached an 
overwhelming- amount. Yet it was an obligation delibe- 
rately contracted, and not to be justly evaded. I was a 



CH. IIT.J THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 379 

poor cenobite,* barely living- on tbe produce of the few 
palm-leaf mats that I could weave, and the scanty herbs 
that would grow in the sand. How could I discharge my 
obligations ? 

" Only one means remained. I could give myself up 
to my creditor as a slave, to labour for him and endure his 
blows and scornful reproaches in patience, or to be sold by 
him for my value, for I am yet strong-. In either case, I 
should have had my Saviour's example to cheer anrl support 
me. At any rate, I should have given tip all that I had 
— myself. 

" I went this morning to the Forum, found my credi- 
tor's son, examined his accounts, and found that you had 
discharged my debt in foil. I am, therefore, your bonds- 
man, Lady Fabiola, instead of the Jew's." And he knelt 
humbly at her feet. 

" Rise, rise," said Fabiola, turning away her weeping 
eyes. " You are no bondsman of mine, but a dear brother 
in our common Lord." 

Then sitting down with him, she said : " Orontius, I 
have a g-reat favour to ask from you. Give me some 
account of how you were brought to that life, which you 
have so g-enerously embraced." 

" I will obey you as briefly as possible. I fled, as you 
know, one sorrowful night from Rome, accompanied by a 
man" — his voice choked him. 

" I know, I know whom you mean, — Eurotas," inter- 
rupted Fabiola. 

" The same, the curse of our house, the author of all 
mine, and my dear sister's, suffering-s. We had to charter 
a vessel at great expense from Brundusium, whence we 
sailed for Cyprus. We attempted commerce and various 
speculations, but all failed. There was manifestly a curse 
on all that we undertook. Our means melted away, and 
we were obliged to seek some other country. We crossed 
over to Palestine, and settled for a while at Gaza. Very 
soon we were reduced to distress; every body shunned 

* The religions who lived in community, or common life, were so 
called. 



380 

us, we knew not why ; but my conscience told me that the 
mark of Cain was on my brow." 

Orontius paused and wept for a time, then went on : 

" At length, when all was exhausted, and nothing re- 
mained but a few jewels, of considerable price indeed, but 
with which, I knew not why, Eurotas would not part, he 
urged me to take up the odious office of denouncing Chris- 
tians; for a furious persecution was breaking out. For 
the first time in my life I rebelled against his commands, 
and refused to obey. One day he asked me to walk out of 
the gates ; we wandered far, till we came to a delightful 
spot in the midst of the desert. It was a narrow dell, 
covered with verdure, and shaded by palm-trees ; a little 
clear stream ran down, issuing from a spring in a rock at 
the head of the valley. In this rock we saw grottoes and 
caverns ; but the place seemed uninhabited. Not a sound 
could be heard but the bubbling of the water. 

" We sat down to rest, when Eurotas addressed me in 
a fearful speech. The time was come, he told me, when 
we must both fulfil the dreadful resolution he had taken, 
that we must not survive the ruin of our family. Here 
we must both die ; the wild beasts would consume our 
bodies, and no one would know the end of its last repre- 
sentatives. 

" So saying, he drew forth two small flasks of unequal 
sizes, handed me the larger one, and swallowed the con- 
tents of the smaller. 

" I refused to take it, and even reproached him for the 
difference of our doses ; but he replied that he was old, 
and I young ; and that they were proportioned to our re- 
spective streng-ths. I still refused, having no wish to die. 
But a sort of demoniacal fury seemed to come over him ; 
he seized me with a giant's grasp, as I sat on the ground, 
threw me on my back, and exclaiming, ' We must both 
perish together,' forcibly poured the contents of the phial, 
without sparing me a drop, down my throat. 

" In an instant, I was unconscious ; and remained so, 
till I awoke in a cavern, and faintly called for drink. A 
venerable old man, with a white beard, put a wooden bowl 
of water to my lips. ' Where is Eurotas V I asked. ' Is 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 381 

that your companion V inquired the old monk. ' Yes/ I 
answered. ' He is dead,' was the reply. I know not by 
what fatality this had happened ; but I bless God with all 
my heart, for having spared me. 

" That old man was Hilarion, a native of Gaza, who, 
having- spent many years with the holy Anthony in Egypt, 
had that year* returned to establish the cenobitic and 
eremitical life in his own country, and had already col- 
lected several disciples. They lived in the caves hard by, 
and took their refection under the shade of those palms, 
and softened their dry food in the water of that fountain. 

" Their kindness to me, their cheerful piety, their holy 
lives, won on me as I recovered. I saw the religion which 
I had persecuted in a sublime form ; and rapidly recalled to 
mind the instructions of my dear mother, and the example 
of my sister; so that yielding to grace, I bewailed my sins 
at the feet of God's minister,! and received baptism on 
Easter-eve." 

" Then we are doubly brethren, nay twin children o^ 
the Church; for I was born to eternal life, also, on thac 
day. But what do you intend to do now ?" 

" Set out this evening on my return. I have accom- 
plished the two objects of my journey. The first was to 
cancel my debt ; my second was to lay an offering on the 
shrine of Agnes. You will remember," he added, smiling, 
" that your good father unintentionally deceived me into 
the idea, that she coveted the jewels I displayed. Fool 
that I was ! But I resolved, after my conversion, that she 
should possess the best that remained in Eurotas's keeping ; 
so I brought it to her." 

" But have you means for your journey ?" asked the 
lady, timidly. 

" Abundant," he replied, " in the charity of the faith- 
ful. I have letters from the Bishop of Gaza, which procure; 
me every where sustenance and lodging ; but I will accept 
from you a cup of water and a morsel of bread, in the namo 
of a disciple." 

* A.D. 303. 

t Confession of sins in private was made before baptism. See 
Bingham, Origines, b. xi. ch. viii. § 14. 



382 FABIOLA; OR, 

They rose, and were advancing towards the house, 
when a woman rushed madly through the shrubs, and fell 
at their feet, exclaiming, " Oh, save me ! dear mistress, 
save me ! He is pursuing me, to kill me !" 

Fabiola recognised, in the poor creature, her former 
slave Jubala; but her hair was grizzly and dishevelled, 
and her whole aspeet bespoke abject miseiy. She asked 
whom she meant. 

" My husband," she replied; " long has he been harsh 
and cruel, but to-day he is more brutal than usual. Oh, 
save me from him !" 

" There is no danger here," replied the lady ; " but I 
fear, Jubala, you are far from happy. I have not seen 
you for a long, long time." 

" No, dear lady, why should I come to tell you of all 
my woes ? Oh ! why did I ever leave you and your house, 
where I ought to have been so happy? I might then 
with you, and Graja, and good old departed Euphro- 
syne, have learnt to be good myself, and have embraced 
Christianity !" 

" What, have you really been thinking of this, Ju- 
bala?" 

" For a long* time, lady, in my sorrows and remorse. 
For I have seen how happy Christians are, even those who 
have been as wicked as myself. And because I hinted 
this to my husband this morning, he has beaten me, and 
threatened to take my life. But, thank God, I have been 
making myself acquainted with Christian doctrines, through 
the teaching of a friend." 

" How long has this bad treatment gone on, Jubala ?" 
asked Orontius, who had heard of it from his uncle. 

" Ever," she replied, " since soon after marriage, I told 
him of an offer made to me previously, by a dark foreigner, 
named Eurotas. Oh ! he was indeed a wicked man, a man 
of black passions and remorseless villany. Connected with 
him, is my most racking recollection." 

" How was that ?" asked Orontius, with eager curiosity. 

te Why, when he was leaving Rome, he asked me to pre- 
pare for him two narcotic potions ; one for any enemy, he 
said, should he.be taken p-isoner. This was to be certainly 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 383 

fatal j another had to suspend consciousness for a few hours 
only, should he require it for himself. 

" When he came for them, I was just going to explain 
to him, that, contrary to appearances, the small phial con- 
tained a fatally concentrated poison, and the large one a 
more diluted and weaker dose. But my husband came in 
at the moment, and in a fit of jealousy thrust me from the 
room.. I fear some mistake may hare been committed, 
and that unintentional death may have ensued." 

Fabiola and Orontius looked at one another in silence, 
wondering at the just dispensations of Providence ; when 
they Mere aroused by a shriek from the woman. They 
were horrified at seeing an arrow quivering in her bosom. 
As Fabiola supported her, Orontius, looking behind him, 
caught a glimpse of a black face grinning hideously through 
the fence. In the next moment a Numidian was seen fly- 
ing away on his horse, with his bow bent, Parthian-wise 
over his shoidder, ready for any pursuer. The arrow had 
passed, unobserved, between Orontius and the lady. 

"Jubala," asked Fabiola, "dost thou wish to die a 
Christian .'"' 

" Most earnestly," she replied. 

" Dost thou believe in One God in Three Persons ?" 

*' I firmly believe in all the Christian Church teaches."' 

" And in Jesus Christ, who was bom and died for our 
sins ?"' 

'• Yes, in all that you believe.'' The reply was more 
faint. 

"Make haste, make haste, Orontius,"' cried Fabiola, 
pointing to the fountain. 

He was already at its basin, filling full his two hands, 
and coming instantly, poured their contents on the head 
of the poor African, pronouncing the words of baptism ; 
and, as she expired, the water of regeneration mingled 
with her blood of expiation. 

After this distressing, yet consoling, scene, they entered 
the house, and instructed Torquatus about the burial to be 
given to this doubly -baptised convert. 

Orontius was struck with the simple neatness of the 
house, so strong-ly contrasting with the luxurious splendour 



384 

of Fabiola's former dwelling 1 . But suddenly his attention 
was arrested, in a small inner room, by a splendid shrine 
or casket, set with jewels, but with an embroidered curtain 
before it, so as to allow only the frame of it to be seen. 
Approaching nearer, he read inscribed on it, 

" The blood of the blessed Miriam, shed by 



CRUEL HANDS 



I" 



Orontius turned deadly pale ; then changed to a deep 
crimson ; and almost staggered. 

Fabiola saw this, and going- up to him kindly and 
frankly, placed her hand upon his arm, and mildly said to 
him: 

" Orontius, there is that within, which may well make 
us both blush deeply, but not therefore despond." 

So saying she drew aside the curtain, and Orontius saw 
within a crystal plate, the embroidered scarf so much con- 
nected with his own, and his sister's history. Upon it 
were lying 1 two sharp weapons, the points of both which 
were rusted with blood. In one he recognised his own 
dagger; the other appeared to him like one of those in- 
struments of female vengeance, with which he knew heathen 
ladies punished their attendant slaves. 

" We have both," said Fabiola, "unintentionally inflicted 
a wound, and shed the blood of her, whom now we honour 
as a sister in heaven. But for my part, from the day 
when I did so, and gave her occasion to display her virtue, 
I date the dawn of grace upon my soul. What say you, 
Orontius ?" 

" That I, likewise, from the instant- that I so misused 
her, and led to her exhibition of such Christian heroism, 
began to feel the hand of God upon me, that has led me 
to repentance and forgiveness." 

" It is thus ever," concluded Fabiola. " The example 
of our Lord has made the martyrs ; and the example of 
the martyrs leads us upwards to Him. Their blood softens 
our hearts ; His alone cleanses our souls. Theirs pleads 
for mercy ; His bestows it. 

" May the Church, in her days of peace and of victories, 
never forget what she owes to the age of her martyrs. As 
for us two, we are indebted to it for our spiritual lives. 



CH. III.] THE CHURCH OF THE CATACOMBS. 



385 



May many, who will only read of it, draw from it the same 
mercy and grace !" 

They knelt down, and prayed long together silently 
before the shrine. 

They then parted, to meet no more. 

After a few years, spent by Orontius in penitential 
fervour, a g'reen mound by the palms, in the little dell near 
Gaza, marked the spot where he slept the sleep of the 
just. 

And after many years of charity and holiness, Fabiola 
withdrew to rest in peace, in company with Agnes and 
Miriam. 




c c 



JLonUon : 

WitteB bs 3Le»ep, Koison, an!) jFwnfeljn, 

ffitttat TSTeto Stmt antr jFctter iUtie, 



POPULAR LIBRARY. 



1. FABIOLA; 

Ok, The Church of the Catacombs. 3s. 

" In Fabiola it is not difficult to recognise the learning and 
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remains of Christian antiquity a truthfulness and value, inde- 
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2. HEROINES OF CHAEITY. 
With Preface by Aubbet de Veee, Esq. 2s. 6d. 

Contents: — 1. The Sisters of Vincennes. — 2. Jeanne Biscot. — 3. Anne 
de Melun. — i. Louise de Marillac — Duchess ofAiguillon — Madame de Pol- 
lalion — Mademoiselle de Lamoignon. — 5. Madame de Miramion. — 6. Mrs. 
Eliza A. Seton.— 7. The Little Sisters of the Poor. 



3. THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCES OF ROME. 

By Lady Georgiana Euixerton. 

With three others ; and an Essay on the Miraculous Lives of 
the Saints. By J. M. Capes, Esq. 2s. 6d. 



4. CATHOLIC LEGENDS AND STORIES. 

A varied and beautiful Volume, containing 31 of the choicest 
Specimens, for the most part new to English readers. 2s. 6<£ 



5. THE WITCH OF MELTON HILL. 

By the Author of " Mount St. Lawrence," &c. 2s. 

" We have seldom read a better story than this. We had first our 
curiosity excited by the very pretty and piquant frontispiece, then were led 
to peruse the well-described and well-imagined opening scene, and so on, 
till we had got to the very end. If all the succeeding volumes of the 
' Popular Library' are as good as this, the series will have an immense suc- 
cess. As for the moral and religious tendency of the book, it is excellent. 
Not a page but some practical moral inference puts out its head like a me- 
dicinal berry among the wild flowers of the wood : it is quite wonderful in 
this respect. . . . The story is a real bond fide story, not a tract disguised 
under the name of one : we can conscientiously recommend it." — Catholic 
Leader (America). 



POPULAR LIBRARY. 

6. PICTURES OF CHRISTIAN HEROISM. 

With Preface by the Eev. H. E. Manning, D.D. 2s. 6d. 

Contents : — 1. Father Azevedo. — 2. Sister Honoria Magaen. — 3. Blessed 
Andrew Bobola. — i. Blessed John de Britto. — 5. The Nuns of Minsk. — 6. A 
Confessor of the Faith, 1793.— 7. The Martyrs of the Carmes.— 8. Gabriel de 
Naillac. — 9. Margaret Clitherow. — 10. Geronimo of Algiers. — 11. Martyrdoms 
in China. — 12. Father Thomas of Jesus. 



7. HISTORY OF THE WAR IN" LA VENDEE ; 

AND THE LITTLE CHOUANNERIE. 

By G. J. Hill, M.A. With Maps and Vignettes. 3s. 



8. TALES AND LEGENDS FROM HISTORY. 

2s. 6d. 

Contents: — 1. Gonsalvo of Amaranta. — 2. The Victory of Muret. — 3. 
The Dominicans in Ghent. — 4. The Martyrs of Stone. — 5. The Abbey of 
Premontre. — 6. Legend of St. Winifride. — 7. The Feast of the Immaculate 
Conception. — 8. The Consecration of Westminster Abbey. — 9. The Monk's 
Last tt'ords. — 10. The Martyr Maidens of Ostend. — 11. The Loss of the 
"Conception." — 12. Foundation of the Abbey of Anchin. — 13. Our Lady of 
Mercy. — 14. John de la Cambe. — 15. The Carpenter of Roosendael. — 16. The 
Widow of Artois.— 17. The Village of Blankenberg.— 18. St. Edward's Death. 
—19. The Windows of San Petronio.— 20. The Vessels of St. Peter. 



9. A POPULAR MODERN HISTORY. 

By Matthew Bridges, Esq. 

This Volume, containing as it does a large amount of matter, 
with complete Indexes, Tables of Chronology, &c. &c, will bo 
found equally useftd for Popular Beading, — as a Student's Text- 
book, — or as a Manual for Schools. 

* # * The Ancient History will shortly appear. 

JS®~ Many of the above volumes, besides being suitable for 
Lending Libraries and Presents, will be useful as Beading Books 
in Schools, for which purpose a large allowance is made. They 
are sold in cloth, or half-bound, at 6d. extra ; elegantly gilt, Is. 
extra. 



LONDON: BURNS AND LAMBERT, PORTMAN STREET. 



IJV PREPARATION. 



THE LIFE OF ST. FRANCIS OF SALES, 

BISHOP AND PRINCE OF GENEVA. 

By Robert Ornsby, Esq. M.A. 



ST. DOMINIC AND THE DOMINICANS : 

A New Biography and History, written expressly for the 
"Popular Library." 



THE LIFE OF ST. VINCENT DE PAUL, 

FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE MISSIONS. 

By H. Bedford, Esq. 



BONNEVAL: 

A TALE OF PARIS IN THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY. 
Foolscap 8vo. Frontispiece. 



HISTORY OF THE MISSIONS IN JAPAN 
AND PARAGUAY. 

By Miss Caddell, author of" Lost Genevieve," 
" Little Snowdrop," &e. 

Foolscap 8vo, with Frontispiece. 



A LIFE OF ST. IGNATIUS. 

WITH A SKETCH OF THE ORDER OF THE JESUITS. 



LATELY PUBLISHED. 



POEMS : MISCELLANEOUS AND SACRED. 

By Aubrey de Vere, Esq. 
Foolscap 8vo, cloth, is. 6d. 



MOUNT ST. LAWRENCE: 

A TALE. 

Cheaper Edition, 2 vols. Is. 



GRACES OF MARY. 

INSTRUCTIONS AND DEVOTIONS FOR EVERY DAY IN THE 
MONTH. 

To each of which an " Example" is appended. 
Neat Wrapper, 1j. &d. • cloth, 2s. 

This delightful little book is partly compiled from all the best and most 
recent works, Italian and French ; while at the same time it has a character 
of freshness and originality peculiar to itself. The " Narratives" are the 
most striking and interesting of the kind, and contain many of the most 
recent and best-authenticated " Miracles of Mary." 



FAMILIAR SKETCHES OF CATHOLIC LIFE 
ABROAD. 

Neat cloth, 3s. 6d. 



THE CHILDREN OF MARY: 

Containing Nineteen Narratives of the Lives and Deaths of several 
of the Pupils of the Convent des Oiseaux, Paris. 

Cloth, St. 

"No more edifying or interesting book than this can be put into the 
hands of the young reader." 



VII. 

The Story of the War in La Vendee j and the 
Little Chouannerie. 

By G. J. Hill, M.A. 

With Two Maps, and Seven Engravings. 

Price 3s. Gd, 



VIII. 

Tales and Legends from History. 

A companion volume to " Catholic Legends." 

Price 2s. Gd. 

Contents: — 1. Gonsalvo of Amaranta. — 2. The Victory of Muret. — 3. The 
Dominicans in Ghent. — i. The Martyrs of Stone.— 5. The Abbey of Premontre. 
—6. Legend of St. Winifride. — 7. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception. — 
8. The Consecration of Westminster Abbey. — 9. The Monk's Last Words. — 
10. The Martyr Maidens of Ostend.— 11. The Loss of the "Conception."— 
12. Foundation of the Abbey of Anchin. — 13. Our Lady of Mercy. — 14. Johnde 
laCambe. — 15. The Carpenter of Roosendael. — 16. The Widow of Artois. — 17. The 
Village of Blankenberg.— 18. St. Edward's Death.— 19. The Windows of SanPe- 
tronio.— 20. The Vessels of St. Peter. 

IX. 

A Popular Modern History. 

By Matthew Bridges, Esq. 
Price 8s. 6d. 

This Volume, containing as it does a large amount of matter, 
written in an interesting style, with complete Indexes, Tables of 
Chronology, &c. &c, will be found equally useful for Popular 
Eeading,— as a Student's Text-Book, — or as a Manual for Schools. 
The Ancient History will shortly appear. 

x. 

The Missions in Japan and Paraguay. 

By Cecilia Caddell, 
Author of " Little Snowdrop," &c. 2s. 6d. 



JVEW VOLUMES SHORTLY TO APPEAR. 

Callista : 

A Tale of the Third Century. 

Lives of St. Francis of Sales and St. Vincent 
of Paul. 

Alice Sherwin: 

A Tale of the Times of Sir Thomas More. 

Narratives of EemarkaMe Conversions. 

A Popular History of the "Wars of Religion." 

A Popular Ancient History. 

Christian Anecdotes. 

St. Dominic and the Dominicans. 

Bonneval : 

A Tale of Paris. 

St. Ignatius and the Jesuits. 

A Popular History of France. 

St. Charles Borromeo, the Reformer of Milan. 

The Heroes of Chivalry. 

Life and Times of St. Philip Neri. 

Tales of Female Courage and Endurance. 



Many of the above Volumes, besides being suitable for Lend- 
ing Libraries and Presents, will be useful as Eeading Books in 
Schools, for which purpose a large allowance is made. They are 
sold in cloth, or half-bound, at Gd. extra ; elegantly gilt, Is. extra. 



LONDON : BURNS & LAMBERT, 17 PORTMAN STREET.